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September 07, 2003

Reformation: Motivation and Background
Kaveh Khodjasteh  [info|posts]

reform.jpgThe idea of Islamic reformation has entertained many intellectuals in Iran recently. After 25 years of Islamic rule over an essentially Muslim country, there seems to be a need for change, and to many the aim of this change is not the government, nor is it the people nor even the economic system, but the religion as a whole.

Reformation and revision have been with Islam since the very beginning; In fact reform has accompanied every religion and in all cases has always mirrored political and cultural environment more or less closely. As a motivation for a discussion on religious reformation, allow me to present a short (and possibly shortcoming) review of reformation in Islam, based on my own perception of it of course.

Even in the early days of Islam, when everything could be blessed with God's direct verdict (through his prophet Mohammad), the details of Islam were subject to change even on a daily basis. This has been recorded in Qur'an in many places, such as the laws against alcohol, the direction of qibleh*, the definition of "infidels" or cases for war against them. After interruption of their source of divine inspiration, Muslims in general revised and modified many parts of Islam; They mostly added to it but also changed parts of it. They also created their own interpretations of it. This includes schisms such as Shi'ite and Sunni, or those within them. This basically reflects the fact that different people had different view of things that were not so explicitly scripted in Qur'an, and they had enough influence (read "power") to embed their views in a new version (read "reading") of Islam.

The differences were not all on theological ideas (as Islam is not only about theology) but on moral and political ideas as well. In fact, muslims started discussions of morality and politics based on their religion as early as the Prophet left them. The literature on these subjects is so rich that even in the period of its first 300 years it has provided more than half of what is now being taught as Islamic Theology in seminaries and universities in the Muslim world. Islam was the religion of change and evolution for 700 years.

After the Mongol invasion and the fall of the Abassid Empire, the unity of the Muslim world collapsed to the emergence of nation states like Ottoman Empire and Muslim Persia. This was also the end of a glorious period of dialogue and reform among different sects and schools; After that everyone simply took their own version of Islam home with them and the interactions stopped. In the meantime Islamic schools shrunk their window to dissent and modern science and alternative philosophies, and then they froze completely...

This held until the beginning of the 20th century and the decline of the European colonization of Asia when nations seeking independence started to use their religious identity as means of resistance and change in their struggles for progress. This was the beginning of a new reform era. A reform movement that after surviving the amazing and numerous turns of the twentieth century is still lively and demanding.

The nature of this reform and the need and justification for it (if at all) will be the topic of a series of post and discussions on the subject of religious reformation that I hope to continue.

Ghazal at September 8, 2003 01:20 PM [permalink]:

Before we start discussing reformation of Islam I guess we need to settle on one point and that’s which Islam is it that we are talking about?
One of the funny features of discussion to me is how we are supposed to use words as a tool to deliver the concept behind the words but instead we become so obsessed with the words that the concept behind the words gets completely forgotten.
the real danger comes as some start to use these words to manipulate people’s judgment exactly the same way that Bush or Sharon are playing with the word terrorism and that is why we always have to remind ourselves of concepts rather than being lost by words.
One of these words is Islam that everybody talks about but not everybody is actually talking about the same thing. There are so many theoretical and practical definitions of Islam ranging from those that include even people who don’t claim to be a “Moslem” or believe in a god named Allah, to those which could only have one actual follower.
Did you notice in previous discussion how Hazhir and Saeed and others, each had their own definition of Shiite or Islam? As Hazhir likes we could take the definition to be what scholars say or we could be more practical like Niayesh and define it as an average over all Moslems’ impression of Islam. This just reminds me of how one of our professors liked to define physics to be what physicists do.
The statements like “this isn’t the real Islam” or “he is a real Moslem” are so common in Iran that it makes me wonder how ordinary people judge the correctness of Islam or in general religion and even credibility of those who are supposedly professionals of religion.
It seems to me a lot of Moslems do have a concept in their mind and that’s why they have some expectations of Islam and they also share a common view that Islam is the definition of the right thing and if something doesn’t seem right it shouldn’t be part of Islam.
In the same way Ali is not just Mohammad’s cousin for them, but a symbol of justice, trustworthy, etc. It’s pointless to try bringing up historical reasons to change that view because popularity of Ali is not as much based on historical knowledge of people about him as it is because of what people think of him.
In other words I think in spite of all standard religious schools of thoughts that have tried to teach people a standard frame of Islam, in practice, for a large portion of the society it has not been enforced on their minds like a solid object, but more like a liquid that although has some smell or taste but has taken the shape of the container (collective tendencies of culture, individual social tendencies like peaceful, violent, …)
So in the end the reformation of what people do or believe as Moslems is a very different
to what a scholar takes to be Islam.

Kaveh Kh. at September 8, 2003 01:34 PM [permalink]:

Point well made, but organized religion is different from science in the sense that religious scholars have extra abilities in imposing their views on masses.

I am not sure of giving my definition of "Islam" or such; these ontological discussions are not within my abilities, as an outsider to philosophic doctrines. Even seemingly practical definitions like that of Niayesh will suffer from lack of real practicality in the actual obtaining of the average impression. That being said, I think it is fairly safe to call all of those who called themselves Muslim, a Muslim indeed. For example, most of Suphis with paradoxically different ideas from the mainstream Islam of their times, called themselves Muslims, and I have no choice but to call them so.

Besides all of the above, I think the subject of definition of Islam is a nice topic to talk about and maybe demands a post of its own...

Senior Grad at September 8, 2003 02:51 PM [permalink]:

You cannot insist to define everything, because sooner or later you will either run out of words, or you will have to use circular definitions! A trivial fact, I know, but maybe worth mentioning. Langauge doesn't work that way, Ghazal. I'm not a linguist (though I wish I could be) but it seems to me that words are "defined" in the relation they bear to objects as well as to other words. We do not need to first come up with a foolproof definition of the word Islam in order to be able to discuss about it. This is not feasible. True, we need to have a common understanding of the words we use in our dialogs to some extent, but only to some extent.

Ghazal at September 8, 2003 04:08 PM [permalink]:

I am not worried about redefining Islam at all but exactly about that “common understanding”! What is that common understanding that we have?

Senior Grad at September 8, 2003 05:38 PM [permalink]:

Main Entry: Is·lam
Pronunciation: is-'läm, iz-, -'lam, 'is-", 'iz-"
Function: noun
Etymology: Arabic islAm submission (to the will of God)
Date: 1817
1 : the religious faith of Muslims including belief in Allah as the sole deity and in Muhammad as his prophet
2 a : the civilization erected upon Islamic faith b : the group of modern nations in which Islam is the dominant religion

Happy, now?

Hooman at September 8, 2003 06:56 PM [permalink]:

It is an interesting topic that I was kinda expanding in my blog too. I believe once religion is pushed back or challenged (like the way christianity was pushed back some centuries ago), it starts to struggle to survive. So I leave how-to-survive part (more diplomatically put "Reform") to clergies to decide. The way it is challenged is also very crucial in how they come up with ideas to make religion more appealing.
I believe it is a natural process that cannot be pre-planned. Maybe they are people who are talking it over now, but I think they may pretty well end up wasting their time, while natural reforms on the ground trun out to be of different nature and detail.

Ghazal at September 8, 2003 08:41 PM [permalink]:

Senior Grad,
Not really because you don’t seem to get my point and as I said before just take a look at previous discussions to see what I am referring to. I am not interested to know how dictionary defines Islam what I am saying is that talking about an Islam as what a scholar (or “dictionary”) defines is quite different to an Islam that Moslems practice.
In the context of reform let’s look at one specific case, what percentage of Iranians who consider themselves Moslems would really kill Salman Roshdi if they see him? I can bet at least 90% of Iranian Moslem women can not even think of doing that and I leave the judgment for men to you. So is killing Roshdi Islamic or not? Does it have to be reformed? I would say well, if almost half of Moslems don’t do it then maybe not but if you go to Feiziyeh and ask the same question then it probably is.

Shiraz at September 8, 2003 09:17 PM [permalink]:

I think Ghazal you kind of answered your own question. The fact that 90% of women (according to you) would not have killed Rushdi eventhough a significant Islamic Scholar had given the order, points out that a big chunck of people have already done the reform in their heads. And the fact that after I don't know 15 years now they decided that we shouldn't kill him after all, shows the other kind of reform (for political reasons in this case) It doesn’t change the definition of Islam and it’s rules.

All the postings that you refer to show that one can strech the religion to get the definition that is most convinient for him/her (different interpretation by different scholars, etc.). This doesn’t mean that there are different types of Islam. For example, cutting the hands of a thielf is an Islamic punishment, if one chooses not to do so, it’s his/her reform not that there is another type of Islam suggesting otherwise. I guess for the sake of the argument we have to stick by the basic definitions.

BHS at September 8, 2003 10:40 PM [permalink]:

Just a quick comment on the digression of how to define Islam (or even other things, like physics): yes, there are different versions (readings/interpretations/insert your own preferred word here) of Islam. One may think of an averaged-out version of Islam like Niyayesh, or as Kaveh pointed out, simply take all of them into account (basically putting them in one equivalence class). The latter is the same as Ghazal's professor definition of physics as ``what physicists do.'' A conscious knowledge of the spectrum is important, though, and extremely helpful at times, but as Senior Grad said, I believe it does not mean we can't talk about Islam.

Behrooz at September 8, 2003 11:21 PM [permalink]:

1. I really fail to see how many of you cannot come to an agreement as to the definition of Islam. If any of you have read Nahjul Balagha, Imam Ali provides a clear solution to this apparent problem. He says, "I define Islam for you in a way that nobody dared do it before me. Islam means obedience to Allah, obedience to Allah means having sincere faith in Him, such a faith means to believe in His Power, belief in His Power means recognizing and accepting His Majesty, acceptance of His Majesty means fulfilling the obligations laid down by Him and fulfillment of obligations means actions (Therefore, Islam does not mean mere faith, but faith plus deeds)."

A lot of people seem to neglect Nahjul Balagha when making their own "fatwas" as to what constitutes Islam.

2. In response to Kaveh's post, in specific, "After interruption of their source of divine inspiration, Muslims in general revised and modified many parts of Islam; They mostly added to it but also changed parts of it. They also created their own interpretations of it. This includes schisms such as Shi'ite and Sunni, or those within them..."

The Imamate exists for the sake of preserving Islam. In fact, Fatimah al-Zahra said in her address to Abu Bakr, "The Imamate exists for the sake of preserving order among the Muslims and replacing their disunity with unity." It is questionable to state that she, or her husband, and their descendants could create their own interpretations of Islam (Quran 33:33 by the way).

The Sahaba, and the other 3 Caliphs were not infallible, and undoubtedly, innovations (bid'a) entered Islam as the result of their leadership.

3. We ought to realize that in the absence of the 12th Imam, Islam will evolve, and its adherants will undoubtedly change. Interpretations will change with the times as well, and what may have the norm yesterday, may not be so today.

Iranian Student at September 9, 2003 04:49 AM [permalink]:

A big distinction must be made between the 'Islam' as what Quran asks the 'believers' to adhere to (despite all the obvious inconsistancies in Quran, the basic idea is to 'surrender' completely to a higher being and just shut whatever logical ability one has had before 'deciding' to do that!) and Islam as it really is and has become: a human endeavoure (mostly failed) to achieve some meaning in the world, falible, inconsistant with all the different 'weaknesses' (as far as the Quran ideal goes) of any other *human* product.
Any discussion of an Islamic culture or civilisation that can be analyzed as a semi-logical subject of study is of the second version. But in order to be entitled to do that , one should be a 'non believer' first. So admitting 'moslem believers' should not (if they want to be honest or atleast consistant) take advantage of such aspects usually associated to (the second version of) Islam.
Also I wanted to remark on the 'myth' of an Islamic democratic attitude before Mongolian attacks or before an other instance. Islam from the very beginning was a fscistic ideology. The early periods of free thought were not *Islamic* but only happened because of the vacuum caused by the defeat of older theological fascisms by Islam, and before Islam itself achieved full (cultural not just political) power , when everything froze as it should have done based on Quranic morality. (itself a contradiction in terms)

Senior Grad at September 9, 2003 10:21 AM [permalink]:


I think what you fail to see, if I may dare to say so, is the fact that the persons you name (Ali, Fatima, etc.) are not the *authortities* that non-Muslims, or even non-Shiites think of as infallible the way you do. It is clear that you are an intelligent person (your posts are clear and well-written) so it shouldn't be hard to understand this simple fact: To people outside your faith, Nahjul Balagha, a masterpiece to be sure, is subject to doubt and debate. Even among Shia scholars there could be dispute as whether what is attributed to the Prophet's daughter (or any other of the "infallible"s) is really uttered by her. Even if they all agree that she has said such things, then there is the issue of context and what time the "infallibles" lived in and reading/interpretation/whatever you want to call it. (This last one, courtesy of BHS) :-)

Senior Grad at September 9, 2003 10:46 AM [permalink]:


I give you that. That is, the distinction between what is known as Islam in the books and what is practiced by people. We need to clarify which one of the usages we have in mind when we talk about Islam. However, in order to know what Islam really means in either sense, one should spend a lifetime, at least, in Islamic/religious studies departments. I guess what you are looking for is not something we can squeeze in a few lines here.

Let me take the opportunity and share with you my idea of what Islam is! (A bold move, but you'll forgive me for doing that.) When I use the word Islam and when I introduce myself as a Muslim, it is not just because I am a hypocrite. (Islamic Republic of Iran made hypocrites out of us all.) Islam is an inescapable part of my identity. I like it, and I find it heavenly, when I hear Shajarian's voice singing the azan after a day of fasting, even though I may not have been fasting. I am moved by the beauty of Isfahan's mosques and I am proud to be inheritor of a culture and a tradition that has produced such great works. It is therefore in this sense that I consider myself part of the magnificent culture of Islam.

This is not to say that Islamic rulers/mullahs have not been, more often than not, evil (to use a word to capture all the various bad qualities of them). It is not to say that in the name of Islam no atrocity (a word I learned about two years ago) has taken place. But then there is a whole human (even humane) culture that was once thriving in *our* part of the world and visiting the remaining signs of it, be it in a museum in America or in Taj Mahal In India, you can't help being impressed...

Kaveh Kh. at September 9, 2003 10:54 AM [permalink]:

iranian student,

I think it is a bit too far-fetched to equate organized religion with fascism. However, I do not believe in the myth of the golden days of Islam; as am atter of fact I don't believe personally that Islam and liberal democracy have much in common. It is well known how badly and poorly, non-Arab muslims were treated in those times before the Mongols invasion. What I was referring to, and I am glad that you mentioned the word "vacuum" is just the importance of discourse and dialogue at that period.

Nema Milaninia at September 9, 2003 12:06 PM [permalink]:

In all my studies done on Islamic Reformation it has done so on the basis of interpretations. All the clerics (Sunni and Shiite), in Egypt and Iran, agree that the manner of reformation must be done with respect to tools of interpretation. From that standpoint let me myself make it clear that Islam itself is as universal and ambigious as the concept of universal morality. The concept itself is inherent in the Qu'ran. By its very nature, the word of God given to man (and woman) who are inferior to God to interpret it, forces us to grapple with this dichotomy.

A look at usul al-figh (Islamic jurisprudence) reveals at the Prophets death a variety of tactics were used amongst them qiyas (analogy) and ijtihad (personal reasoning). In fact in a hadith, the prophet spoke to his cleric from Yemen that he must first abide by the Qu'ran, then by his own (the prophet's) actions, and then lastly use reason in solving problems. Along the way, however, the usage of ijtihad was lost and in the Sunni faith was shut.

From my interactions with reformists clerics, their stress has been the need for individual interpretations of Islam done in a democratic context. It is as if through democracy and libertariansm that a truer consensus of Islam can be reached. Second is the mitigation of political Islam which combines two subjects which are equally at odds with one another, power and morality. Third, the integration of human rights into Islam. Montazeri himself demonstrates this growing consensus when he stated that no religion can ever be true if it does not first and foremost protect human rights (of course his concept of human rights is skewed a bit from international standards). This post is getting long so I'll stop there, but as you see the most important focus for reform is the issue of interpretation.

Hazhir at September 9, 2003 01:44 PM [permalink]:

I have a question regarding Kaveh's original post. There he mentions that Islam has been much more open to reform/interpretation before the 8th century, and then becomes rigid, not allowing new interpretations, until a new wave of reform oriented ideas emerged in 19th/20th century. I am curious to hear about other opinion about what is the main drivers and mechanisms for these changes in interpretability of Islam?... assuming that one believes such changes have happened.

hajir at September 9, 2003 01:45 PM [permalink]:

Good discussion! specially Nema's post is thought provoking.

Kaveh in his post talks about the changes like the change of rules regarding alchohol etc. But religion was completed after those small changes and such changes are no more.
As muslims we cannot change a Haram to Halal or vice versa and we cannot innovate in religion.
Any reform in religion must be a fundamentalist return to what we consider "pure" Islam. Ijtihad must happen within Quran and Sunnah; we can use our reasoning abilities to 'extract' the truth from the texts.

A physicist studies nature and extracts theories and answers to problems he has. He may reform a theory but he can never reform nature; nature is the subject of the study. The same way Quran and Sunnah are subjects of the study and a reformist may want to reform methods or understanding of Islam but he is restricted in the above sense.

Assume we have a set of axioms and we start building a theory on those axioms in a logical way. As you can imagine there are millions of ways to go ahead and you may get a different theory than mine. None of our theories are wrong! We may get different theorms and if our theorms contradict each other this means either our interpretation of axioms are different or the set of axioms are inconsistent.

It is also possible that we build a theory and later on we find out we 'assumed' things along the way. For example 'axiom of choice' was assumed by mathematicians without acknowledging it. These assumption are our 'social assumption'. For an american men and women are equal (equaler than what iranians think) and his social assumption of human rights and women's rights influence his understanding of Islam. He will develop a different theory on Islam than mine!

For him cutting the thief's hand may sound brutal and inhumane so he will go to Quran and will interpret the verse differently. He will argue that "Qat" has many meanings and one of the meanings is "control or stop" so that verse means: stop or control the thieves from stealing, male or female".

So any reform is based on:
1. reconsidering and redefining the belief system
2. recognizing the social assumptions
3. reconsidering the extracting methods from the sacred texts.

Kaveh Kh. at September 9, 2003 02:01 PM [permalink]:

Hajir 1:45PM, I am not sure if I could agree with your rather orthodox interpretation of reformation. What I mean by reform is a reconciliation of your own ideas with those of religion AND vice versa. In fact haraam[forbidden] and halal[ok] even in most explicit cases have been subject to interpretations and even deprications. Remember the times that Imam Ali changed and redefined many of the things that were explicit in Qur'an. Or of newer times, remember that Ay. Khomeini challenged hajj and made it haram for a couple of years.
Besides the above points it is hard to see how you get your rather progressive basis of reform on the last line, from your rather orthodox starting point. At least I fail to see it!

A recurring problem in discussions of religion is trying to axiomatize our belief system and then allow it to change. Religion like many other things is very fluid and flexible, since it has to do with what's going on in people's heart not just their mind; In this respect it is even less structured than economics and even psychology, for instance. Discussing the relationship of people and religion is what I planned for my final post on this subject, so let me cut it up to here.

Nema Milaninia at September 9, 2003 02:32 PM [permalink]:


I think you make a good point by saying that religion is fluid and flexible...but it has to draw criticism. For example, how do you reconciliate with a man who believes that Islam is open to homosexuality, when clearly its not. And here's the the issue whichtears at the concept of political Islam, which is standardization. The fact is that many Muslims believe that there are "definites" and it changes. In law these minimum core elements change and are lucid, because laws reflect public morality. But can we say the same thing with religion? Its certainly a topic to pull one's hair about but it goes down to the root of religion and human dignity.

Ghazal at September 9, 2003 04:17 PM [permalink]:

I have few comments which are not exactly in the line of the discussion but I find them worth mentioning.
According to some scholars Islamic “social” laws can all be changed depending on time and circumstances even if they are mentioned in the texts or Sunnah and it actually is not something new.
As there is so much referring to the thief’s hand let me say it for our non Iranian readers that it is not practiced in Iran because I guess it isn’t practical and also most Shiite scholars believe there are so many conditions that has to be satisfied so that the law can be executed like the person shouldn’t be poor or in need, …so it is not basically an important issue for Moslems in Iran. But since there are other kind of punishments that are executed in Iran like death penalty it’s worth mentioning that according to interpretation of some Shiite scholars none of the punishments (Hodood) should be executed in the absence of Prophet who can get direct calls from god.

Behrooz at September 9, 2003 06:00 PM [permalink]:

Senior Grad:

I welcome your points, and agree that others in society may not agree in the notion of infallibility. However, belief in infallibility is not requisite for the institution to exist. It is a matter of logical necessity (a priori in fact), despite how a person wants to interpret/read the whole issue.

Second, yes, we can doubt what the 14 'masoomeen' said, but in the end, we have to make a judgment using our reasoning faculties (beyond a reasonable doubt). If anything is contrary to the Qur'an and Sunnah, reject the hadith (eg: by the principle of non-contradiction).

Third, maybe it wasn't intentional, but you seem to have questioned the persons, rather than the statements themselves?

Kaveh Kh:

"Remember the times that Imam Ali changed and redefined many of the things that were explicit in Qur'an."

No he didn't. He reverted back to the original Sunnah of the Prophet after all the innovations (bid'a) introduced by the first three Caliphs. An example of such was the reforms he re-introduced at the Islamic Treasury, eg: equal shares for everyone despite economic status, etc. Moreover, remember what he said at Siffin about being a "living Qur'an"?

Grand Vizier at September 9, 2003 06:18 PM [permalink]:

How about the changes he introduced in Zakat? How about the times he challenged the wordings of Koran to challenge his opponents in thos wars? I should refer you to some Sunni sources maybe? "Living Qur'an" why? Because he was not compatible with what was written in it? maybe? Refer to the arguments of his opponents in those wars. Do you want to believe in a one-sided version of history?

Behrooz at September 9, 2003 08:10 PM [permalink]:

Grand Vizier:

Although this whole debate is not in the context of the present topic, yes, I would like to see your sources (please feel free to contact me). However, I strongly suggest that you read at least the following before entering what could be a perilious debate (all have both Shia and Sunni sources including the 6 "Sahih" books of Ahle Sunnah).

1. A Shi'ite Encyclopedia (

2. Peshawar Nights (

3. Then I Was Guided, by Dr. Muhammad Tijani al-Samawi (

4. The Shi'ah are (the real) Ahl al-Sunnah, by Dr. Muhammad Tijani al-Samawi (

5. Nahjul Balagha by Imam Ali (

Kaveh Kh. at September 9, 2003 08:41 PM [permalink]:

I just have to remind everyone, especially "grand vizier" and Behrooz, to have a look at my post with Popper's requirements for dialogues, before indulging in a heatful discussion on Shi'ism. I might be forced to close the comment section on this post, as a result:

Behrooz at September 9, 2003 09:50 PM [permalink]:

I have not read all of the books you mentioned but I have read a good deal of them.
Anyway I wonder how you justify Imam Ali's saying on women (that they are deficient in intelligence and religion); this is recorded in nahjul balaghah and Soroush has discussed this issue (

hajir at September 9, 2003 09:51 PM [permalink]:

sorry the above post is mine, I did a mistake in writing Behrooz' name instead of mine

Behrooz at September 9, 2003 10:55 PM [permalink]:


That's a good question, but I think that it is a little beyond the scope of the discussion at hand. Nor do I want to start any sort of religious debate. The purpose of those links were simply sources with both Shia and Sunni sources(that one can investigate) in response to the critique that Imam Ali introduced innovations (bid'a) to Islam.

Liam at September 10, 2003 01:17 PM [permalink]:

Aren't your sources all coming from a Shi'ite website? Have you seen what Wah-habi websites say about Imam Ali? They also include sources from Shi'i books to prove that Shi'ites are "Kafar" (infidels) because of sticking to certian bid'as. My own impression is that it is best to investigate impartial sources on this.

Niayesh at September 11, 2003 01:51 AM [permalink]:

Reading through Kaveh's post, it appears to me that he thinks all the reforms and branchings that Islam has gone through in its history, are bad things.

This is while other critiques of Islam, like Senior Grad in his/her Sep. 8th, 1:25PM comment , consider it a "pre-packaged" ideology with "passive" followers.

Well, to me, the fact that readings of a religion may easily change with time implies that it does not just belong in the history, and can be fitted to the needs of today's societies. Moreover, accepting the dynamic (and subjective) nature of religion would prevent fanaticism and extremism from becoming norms.

I think it is a hadith from the prophet which says :" The number of ways to God is the number of those who worship him".
Subjective but educated interpretation is what Shiia calls "Ijtihad", and, as long as people learn to tolerate opposing ideas, is the recipe for progress.

Kaveh Kh. at September 11, 2003 09:08 AM [permalink]:

How do you conclude that I find the changes in Islam bad? Do you find my examples implying that, or my semi-conclusions?

I was trying to be impartial on the subject of reform, but as a source of change and relativism it is of absolute appeal to me.

Niayesh at September 11, 2003 11:25 AM [permalink]:


Forgive my midnight misreading! It appears that I had mixed other comments with your post in my mind. Also, it's not always easy to find out one's intention from his/her writing.

Iranian Student at September 11, 2003 04:59 PM [permalink]:

Kaveh, I didn't equate 'organized religion' with fascism, I claimed 'Islam' (as is introduced in the better part of the Quran for Moslems to follow) to be a Fscistic ideology (or religion or worldview or whatever) and not just when it is practised as an organized religion, but in its very core.
There are countless example from the Quran , I just bring one of them here:
'Vaylon leshakkakin" (Woe to those who doubt)-isn't that the quintessence of Fascism?

There are other organized religions, especially Judaism or Wicca which are humane and moral, almost the opposite of all sorts of Fascism(and usually their first victims).

Also, I was not only reffering to the conditions of non-Arabs in Islamic times.
Take women for example. Despite all the rubbish about womens' position during the pre-Islamic era (I will NOT use the term 'Jaheliat' (Age of Ignorance) for that period!) in Arabia we see that Khadije could have asked Muhammad's hand in Marriage, Hend was a leading political figure and even Aisha was powerful enough to lead a war. Now look at the postion of women as early as a hunderd years after Islam- one of men's belongings rapped in a chaddor or burqa' or whatever, prisoned in her master's house: not even a second class citizen. Not surprising when the dominant religion, with the apparent authority of its God, allows husbands to beat their wives if they are disobedient or to regard them as their fields where they can enter and harvest as they please... to name but a few of Quranic verses.

What I said also includes the Arabs themselves. They were more or less a free tribal society that could have eventually thrived to an exuberant civilisation, but which became a closed dogmatized backward culture because of this religion. The results of which we see today in forms of despicable fundemantalist and terrorist mentalities in all Ilsmaic and especially Arab lands.

One last thought: all the struggle for 'reforming' Islam are ussually the concern of people who are not couragous enough to see it as what it is,leave it aside and embrace real human rationality instead.
The fact that many of those poeple are bright students in some of the most difficult fields of science and yet still 'believe' in issues such as Islam is a fascinating subject of study by itself.
My theory is that no one really believes in such stuff. It's just that brainwashing in early childhood , through the system, family and the backward cultures somehow damages parts of the mind that are related to these matters. They become conditional to words and concepts. Other topics which are not directly related to these fields (that again is decided by the system in which they grow up) are handled freely and sometimes intelligently.
As an example take Galileo and all the fuss about earth rotating the sun for example. The church and christians believed in such miraculous fables, Christ being God, walking on water, resurrecting from death, quickening the dead... that a relatively simple matter like earth rotating constantly didn't seem much of an issue. If they had such a hard time believeing it, what can one say about their degree of belief in the other stuff of their faith?

In short, Life is too short to waste on reforming Islam or similar issues:
free the mind, and the rest will follow!

Kaveh Kh. at September 11, 2003 05:09 PM [permalink]:

Please let us know if you have a special way of teaching people how to free their mind.

Let me clarify again that I tried my best to at least sound impartial at the subject of religious reform. My personal ideas about religious reform (and reforms in general) at best can be called skeptical.

I thought I had to say this so that we can discuss the "need for reform" for a follow-up post! This one was just motivation and history.

An Iranian Student at September 11, 2003 09:53 PM [permalink]:

I appreciate your efforts for being impartial. But impartiality sometimes means remaining faithful to the realities, so that expressing harsh and sharp views on a subject does not make it neccesarily less 'impartial', if the remarks are backed by reason and evidence.
(I just thought I make this point :).
Also, I wasn't hinting at you or your views, but expressing my own opinions on the subject and my stand towards those who consider themselves 'religious' intellectuals-especially since the 'reform' movement became an important factor in Iranian culture and politics and in its future fate.
(It does not include you by the way, as far as I can say).

As for 'teaching people to free their minds', I don't quite understand this term.
One usually does not *teach* others to be free.
What can be done is to be uncompromising in ones criticisms of subjects one finds wrong, and in avoiding the elusive trap of missing the jungle because of the trees under the context of 'political etc. correctness'.
To tell you the truth, I have problems with this attitude of 'teaching' the 'people' or 'informing' the 'masses' and so on. It implies that we are somehow responsible for making other people's minds.
I really do not concern myself with such issues. At this stage, the important thing is for everyone to express his/her views without euphemisms and reservations , without fear of 'insulting other people's beliefs' and of being impartial or biased or even at being plain wrong....

Actually one of the problems with Iranian intellectuals or the educated in general in the past hundred years was, IMHO, that they always took on themsleves to 'educate the masses' , to bring them out of ignorance...they always tacitly assumed an authority for themselves. I wonder wether things would have gone better if they just remained honest in their expressions and treated 'the people' as their equals who would understand a point without the need for being 'taught'.
'The people' are as intelligent as any one of us. They can judge for themselves and they themselves will try to free their minds if they are confronted with enough controversial, unreserved and opposing views on different subjects.

hajir at September 11, 2003 10:31 PM [permalink]:

Iranian Student,
Most people are ignorant and blind followers of their forefathers. Even when they want to do a research they become blind followers of a scholar or an intellectual.
The number of people with freed minds are very little and they are most of the time ignored.

Niayesh at September 12, 2003 12:56 AM [permalink]:

Iranian Student,

Could you tell us which verse of Quran says :
"Vaylon leshakkakin" (Woe to those who doubt)
None of the search engines that I tried seem to find it!

hajir at September 12, 2003 12:34 PM [permalink]:

We don't have "waylun lishakkakin" in Quran but we have waylun lilmukazzibin (wow to the liars!)

By the way, Niyayesh, Prophet has not said: "The number of ways to God is the number of those who worship him."; this is one of the teachings of Sufims (the deviated path of Sufism). There is only one way to Allah SWT and that one way is Islam. Islam means sumbitting the will to Allah. On the personal level the forms of religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc) are not important. A christian can be a submitter and hence a muslim and at the same time a muslim (by name) can be a Mushrik by worshipping human idols and hence directly go to hell.
When you consider the 'forms' or 'official forms' of religions, christianity is Shirk but it's possible for a christian to be more muslim than I am. That would be because of his personal struggle and not because of christianity. The form of Islam, its way of worship, its rituals and its belief system provides 'the best way' to Allah. But the essence or the inner meaning of Islam (which is submission) is 'the only way' to Allah.

Niayesh at September 12, 2003 12:51 PM [permalink]:


I think the intention of submission to God is implied by "worship". Therefore the statement:

"The number of ways to God is the number of those who worship him."
(Alttorghe ela allah, be adade ebadeh)[I think!]

is equivalent to what you describe, and probably a tautology. Of course, this statement doesn't say which way is better.

I think, contrary to what you say, this is in fact a Hadith, although I'm not sure how to confirm its source and credibility.

hajir at September 12, 2003 10:01 PM [permalink]:

The only saying that matches your saying is:
الطرق الي الله بعدد انفاس الخلايق
To the number of people, there are ways to Allah.
I can hardly conclude a pluraristic theory out of this saying. Obviously, any human has his/her own unique way of reaching Allah. This saying doesn't recognize different ways of worship.
This saying is not recognized as an authentic narration in Sunni tradition. In shi'i tradition, though I came across "Jame'ul Asraar wa Manba'ul Anwaar" as a source of this Hadith.

Check out:

Niayesh at September 13, 2003 12:59 AM [permalink]:


I have no idea how you found this hadith, but I'm really grateful and glad that you did.

As to the implications of this hadith, if you accept it, my take is that it shows the possibility of individual and subjective interpretations of religion, as opposed to blind submission into a religious authority. I think this is a fair assessment, don't you?

Niayesh at September 13, 2003 02:45 AM [permalink]:
It's not everyday that somebody calls you a fascist. If it was only you, you could forgive and forget, but what if a billion others were branded fascists along with you, with no good reason. So I decided to respond, may be not the best response, but the least... Iranian Student (Sep. 11, 4:59PM), I am one of those "bright students in some of the most difficult fields of science ", and being that, have seen far too many people who come up with absurd theories of everything, which do not meet the least requirements of a scientific theory. This is what we call pseudo-science. Although the boundaries are more fuzzy in humanities, your comprehensive theory of all religions along with brain physiology and psychology, surely fits the same profile. Your only example of fascism in Quran turned out to be a misquote. Here is how fascism is defined in the dictioary 1- often Fascism A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism. 2-A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government. Oppressive, dictatorial control. In Quran, the authority is with God and his messenger. Since the messenger is not around and God does not talk to us, there is no dictator to make a real fascism. As far as I can tell, there is no mention of any other characteristics of fascism in Quran, or at least you need to show them to me. The religions that you call "humane" and "moral", have never been the majority in the recent history, and let's face it, being a minority at the mercy of the majority, you can't go around killing others and expect to survive. Being peaceful is the only way that you have. Christianity used to be a peaceful and "humane" religion until it became a majority and started its inquisition. Also, if you think Judaism is much more humane than other religions, you may want to check the following link and the links therein: I don't know how valid the quotations are, but since you are such an authority in religions, you should be able to confirm/disprove them yourself. In fact, the only Jewish state that you can find today, with its treatment and persecuation of Arabs, can be considered neither "humane" nor "moral" (unless you are a Zionist). As to the positions of women after Islam, the only pre-Islamic positive character was Khadije, Mohammad's wife, who was in the trade business. Now if you could name a man in the same business, a hundred years after Islam, then I would name a woman. Khadije became famous because of her husband. Otherwise we wouldn't have known about her, as we don't about many other outgoing Muslim women after her. Of course, if you read history, you would find out about many important women, although not necessarily in the trade business. The rest of what you say about women in Quran have nothing to do with what you're trying to prove either. As to the fate of Arabs without Islam, I don't think any historian/sociologist would claim to be able to predict how a society will turn out in a century. I don't know how you think you can predict one's fate from 14 centuries ago. So many thriving civilizations that have disappeared into oblivion ... A rational person would know that in the absence of any ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
An Iranian Student at September 13, 2003 04:52 AM [permalink]:
Dear Niayesh, I did a search on the wordings of that text myself and I couldn't find anything either. However I'm sure I read manythings with the same content. Actually the verse Hajir refered to 'Vaylon yomaezen lelmokazzebin' is better translated as 'Woe on that day to the rejecters', since the next verse: 'Allazina yokazzebun beyomaddin' makes it clear that those are meant who do not accept the 'day of judgement', which amounts to the same thing, those who refuse to believe blindly on the doctrine presented in that Book. There are also a lot of 'vaylon lelkaferun' which are basically the non-believers that refused-for whatever reason, right OR WRONG- to accept Muhammad's version of things. Here are some examples: Suad ------ [38.27] And We did not create the heaven and the earth and what is between them in vain; that is the opinion of those who disbelieve then *woe to those who disbelieve on account of the fire.* The Scatterers --------------- [51.60] Therefore *woe to those who disbelieve* because of their day which they are threatened with. In case you insist on the exact usages of the words-if that's the best argument you can give against the points I raised- here are enough references to the Quran's view about doubt and doubters to make my case: The Cow -------- [2.147] The truth is from your Lord, therefore you should not be of the *doubters* The Immunity ------------- [9.45] They only ask leave of you who do not believe in Allah and the latter day and their hearts are in *doubt*, so in their *doubt* do they waver. The Pilgrimage --------------- [22.55] And those who disbelieve shall not cease to be in *doubt* concerning it until the hour overtakes them suddenly, or there comes on them the chastisement of a destructive day. The Light ---------- [24.50] Is there in their hearts a disease, or are they in *doubt*, or do they fear that Allah and His Apostle will act wrongfully towards them? The Saba --------- [34.21] And he has no authority over them, but that We may distinguish him who believes in the hereafter from him who is in *doubt* concerning it; and your Lord is the Preserver of all things Suad ----- [38.8] Has the reminder been revealed to him from among us? Nay! they are in *doubt* as to My reminder. Nay! they have not yet tasted My chastisement! The Believer ------------- [40.34] Thus does Allah cause him to err who is extravagant, a *doubter* The Smoke ---------- [44.9] Nay, they are in *doubt*, they sport. The Chambers ------------- [49.15] The believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Apostle then they *doubt* not and struggle hard with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah; they are the truthful ones. Qaf ---- [50.25] Forbidder of good, exceeder of limits, *doubter*, The Iron --------- [57.14] They will cry out to them: Were we not with you? They shall say: Yea! but you caused yourselves to fall into temptation, and you waited and *doubted*, and vain desires deceived you till the threatened punishment of Allah came, while the archdeceiver deceived you about Allah. . . . (The defence rests! ;) But since Hajir was kind enough to call me a liar I would just mention that his definition of Islam in one of the posts above is one of the best definitions of Fascim (see below)that I have come by. Also, suppose I am a liar, an enemy of God who you guys must pitty and feel sorry for his eternal damnation. Just makes me wonder what kind of omnipotent God it is that has such vile enemies ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
An Iranian Student at September 13, 2003 05:50 AM [permalink]:

Dear Hajir,

many many people might be ignorant or mere followers, but all of the have the potential to decide for themselves and free their minds from all sorts of superstition if they are given the chance,if they're confronted with and live in a millieu in which different ideas are expressed freely about every subject without reservations.
Atleast that's *my faith* in humanity.

An Iranian Student at September 13, 2003 05:52 AM [permalink]:


by the way, it is not *wow* to the liars, but woe to the liars. (LOL)
Else I would have been a great Moslem I guess!

Ghazal at September 13, 2003 11:50 AM [permalink]:

Iranian student,

“Indeed it seems Israel is doing a fine job of tolerance and keeping away from reacting by inhuman acts of revenge ,regarding what Arabs are doing to its poeple almost everyday. If saying this makes me a Zionist, I don't have any problems with it.”

I think it just makes you an ignorant person not a Zionist. Sharon is doing a good job of tolerance?!! Ok Hamas and Arafat are evil but Israeli government isn’t any better either.
A Swiss friend once told me, no matter how media covers the events It’s just a matter of simple math,
How many Palestinians are killed by Israelis? how many Israelis are killed by Palestinians?,
and for what Israeli army does to Palestinians take a look at ( a letter from a jailed Israeli soldier who refused to continue serving in occupied territories)
Anyway sorry for interruption I don’t want to change the subject of this discussion.

An Iranian Student at September 13, 2003 06:01 PM [permalink]:
Niayesh, I almost forgot the part about my pseudo-scientific theories. Well I never claimed this was a truly testable scientific theory, I meant it more as an opinion, I used the term 'my' theory for it.. I also never spoke of brain physiology, but of damaged *minds* -pardon my English-I meant something like "manipulated minds" (Here in Iran, we don't get the opporunity to interact with native speakers all the time) I believe though that it is a valid observation and not without its merits and that it points to an important factor. But since you are such ardent supporter of scientific mentality and loath any form of pseudo scientifical claims, and since you seem to be a believing and practicing Moslem, I wonder what you think of the following verses meant only as examples: The Thunder ------------- [13.13] And the thunder declares His glory with His praise, and the angels too for awe of Him; and He sends the thunderbolts and smites with them whom He pleases, yet they dispute concerning Allah, and He is mighty in prowess. The Thunder -------------- [13.2] Allah is He Who raised the heavens with pillars that you can't see. The Cave ----------- [18.86] Until when he reached the place where the sun set, he found it going down into a black sea, and found by it a people. We said: O Zulqarnain! either give them a chastisement or do them a benefit. [18.90] Until when he reached the land of the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people to whom We had given no shelter from It; Yasin ------- [36.40] Neither is it allowable to the sun that it should overtake the moon, nor can the night outstrip the day; and all float on in a sphere. The Cow -------- Ibrahim said: So surely Allah causes the sun to rise from the east, then make it rise from the west; thus he who disbelieved was confounded; and Allah does not guide aright the unjust people. The Cow -------- [2.102] And they followed what the Shaitans chanted of sorcery in the reign of Sulaiman, and Sulaiman was not an unbeliever, but the Shaitans disbelieved, they taught men sorcery and that was sent down to the two angels at Babel.... The Elevated Places -------------------- [7.20] But the Shaitan made an evil suggestion to them that he might make manifest to them what had been hidden from them of their evil inclinations, and he said: Your Lord has not forbidden you this tree except that you may not both become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals. The Originator ----------------- [35.1] All praise is due to Allah, the Originator of the heavens and the earth, the Maker of the angels, messengers flying on wings, two, and three, and four; He increases in creation what He pleases; surely Allah has power over all things. The Star --------- [53.27] Most surely they who do not believe in the hereafter name the angels with female names. The Accessions ----------------- [8.9] When you sought aid from your Lord, so He answered you: I will assist you with a thousand of the angels following one another. The Pen --------- [68.51] And those who disbelieve would almost smite you with their eyes when they hear the reminder, and they say: Most surely he is mad. ------ (What can I say, those who live in glass houses...) I just can't resist the temptation of including here a completely irrelevant remark to all the discussions so far, sorry everyone! (since I'm damned eternally anyway, it doesn't matter much) Read the following verses: The Chambers ------------- [49. ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
An Iranian Student at September 13, 2003 06:49 PM [permalink]:

Dear Ghazal,

THe operations Israel is performing is the least any government should do to protect its civilians.
Moreover, Israel's army is accountable for its deeds to higher commissions and courts, whereas Palestinians aren't accountable to anybody.
Israel has alway wanted peace, and it was the Arabs who from the very first day seeked nothing but the complete destruction of Israel.
Besides Isreal has only targeted terrorists and their supporters and taken a lot of trouble in trying to spare civilian lives during its operations. That's why for example the recent attacks on Hamas leaders failed....
I am also sure that those Israeli-Arabs living in Israel enjoy much better lives and much more freedom than their counterparts elsewhere.
And yes, Sharon's government, a democratically elected body, is doing a very good job in such dire times, IMHO.

I am aware that there are a lot of ant-Israel propaganda around, especially in the web, and that there are Jews and even Israelis who share the same views (See this for example (by the way, the fact that they can express their opinions freely tells much about the democracy in Israel)...but that's what they are,propaganda. Also the fact that I consider Israel as a civilised, free land with humane policies does not make me an ignorant. I have read *a lot* of sources about the subject from *both* camps.
I suggest you do the same.

Here are some usefull links (Mostly from the Israeli side) for you:

1-(A short history of Israel,strongly recommended:)

2-Israeli Defense Force Website:



5-This is a very important pdf file about muslim-antisemitism

If you like, you can start a new discussion on this subject, because as you said it is not much relevant to this one.

hajir at September 13, 2003 08:08 PM [permalink]:

Iranian Student,
I didn't call you a liar but you called yourself a liar. I thought you might have misunderstood the verse Waylun lilmukathibeen". So as persians say "be khodet nagir".
All the points you brought up from Quran have been followed by deep discussions by many scholars.Taking a verse out of its context is not 'the rational way' of research. If you have questions I will be pleased to try to answer you but please throw away your arrogance. It seems you have made up your mind in rejecting Islam so there is no point in arguing with you.

An Iranian Student at September 13, 2003 08:37 PM [permalink]:


"All the points you brought up from Quran have been followed by deep discussions by many scholars. Taking a verse out of its context is not 'the rational way' of research."

O, come on! Our generation, those who grew up in the glorious years after the revolution, are experts in 'scholar' (read Mullah) sophistries. You better use other techniques, these are a bit out of date for us!

Ghazal at September 14, 2003 03:06 AM [permalink]:

Iranian studenYou see,
I don’t like names and labels, give me some facts, some numbers to convince me!
I don’t care if you call a murder a terrorist act or a self-defense or freedom fighting!
I see how many civilians are killed or even better how many children are killed!
I see how many houses are being demolished? How many farms are destroyed! Who is putting curfews! Look at the international reports about journalists who are injured by Israeli army. And look who is shooting the cameramen! Do you have any reports about that? or are you just so ignorant to call even international reports all propaganda!
Who is always afraid of international committees! And I actually think it is even worse if an elected government commits a crime than a terrorist organization, as governments are supposed to be accountable and responsible organizations. None of the websites you show me seems to answer any of those questions. So what, Moslems are racist? So are many Jews and Christians and many others, big news! Does it mean that a government has a right to occupy their lands and to destroy their houses and shoot children who are throwing stones?
Believe me I do listen to the other side of the story enough in US as every time there is a suicide attack in Israel it’s all over the news over and over while there are rarely mention of Palestinian children who are killed. I guess I don’t have to tell you what is American government’s position and it’s media about Sharon and Israeli government.( just look at why US has been the major vetoing country in UN since 1972: Of course you think all other countries except US are fooled by propaganda! And one point about democracy, It doesn’t justify inhumane crimes! unlike you I see both sides and I see how both sides are suffering and I don’t think what Sharon is doing is a self-defense but instead is bringing more suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians which is by the way what he is an expert at! Just look at his profile:

Niayesh at September 14, 2003 05:31 AM [permalink]:
Iranian Student, I know that I should not hope to convince you in the few lines that I may be able to write here. What I can hope for, however, is that you go over your justifications (even over the comments that you've written here) and check if your conclusions follow from your assumptions, or the other way around. Are all your reasonings consistent? You mentioned that you lived in Iran. Well, may be you don't get the whole picture in Iran (which we both agree, is not the best place to get it). You mentioned that you read a lot, probably on the web. If most of the media outlets have anti-muslim, pro-Israeli positions, why would you expect the internet to be any different? So do you think your sources (from Israeli army for example) are more balanced than, say the UN? I'll briefly go over your arguments. (On your Sep. 13, 4:52AM comment) You have pasted a long list of Quranic verses which contain the word "doubt", and I'm not sure what purpose this is supposed to surve. The common theme among almost all these verses was that those who don't believe in or doubt about certain things will face consequences in the judgement day. In fact every religion or culture that I know of has similar beliefs (regarding the judgement day, re-incarnation, or some other sort of afterlife). Of course, as long as it only concerns the afterlife, this is of no concern to the unbelievers, and a far cry from any sort of Fascism. If there is a God, and you try to deny him (or be his enemy), then the only ones who are hurt are you and those who listen to you. Of course, it's your own bet! In today's English, Fascism is used as more of a political swear word or slogan that you probably hear from any radical politician, as he/she describes his/her rival. They, of course, have their own, self-satisfying, definition of Fascism, as you do. As to Islam vs. Fascism, every religion/culture has had its own inquisition history, when it was the dominant one. I prefer to think that it has something to do with the man's attitude towards supremacy, rather than the excuse that he finds for it. Islam, for its part, has had the most vibrant tradition of critical discussion and interaction with other religions. The Islamic inquisition, which was much less widespread comparing to the christian one, has had more of a political nature and was orchestrated by the rulers, and the clerics close to them. The only thing in actual Islamic tradition which may suggest a forceful suppresion of dissent (your definition of Fascism), is the execution of those who turn away from Muslims (it's somewhere in Quran). However, you find it in the constitution of the United States too(the execution of the traders). I believe this is more of a political statement, rather than an ideological one. I prefer not to discuss Judaism any more than what I already have. The execution of Jesus is the most famous example of Jewish inquisition, while the quotes from Talmud, that I linked above, show that it was not just an exception. What amazes me is that the Jewish reform process throughout the history is acceptable to you, while you consider the Islamic reformation absurd. You mention that a considerable number of Muslims who live in western countries are not tolerant and respectful of others. I, frankly, don't know of such a thing. Ghazal has already responded to you about your take on the Israreli policies. If you don't see the "persecution of Arabs", then I think something is b ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
A Reader at September 14, 2003 06:20 PM [permalink]:

You know what? I think I'm really moved by Hajir's and (afterwards by Niayesh's) comments.
and want to get out of my 'arrogance' (BTW, did you mean just a normal personal arrogance, or am I an insignificant element in the overall Global Arrogance (Estekbar-e-Jahani) lead by vile Zionists and Imperialist Yankees, themselves puppets of the Archdeceiver?)
Way to go guys in "amr-e be ma-ruf" (you might get like, 2.45*10^12 "savabs" for this one and a few more bricks in your houses in the Paradise).

So I've decided to enter a 'rational research' on the topic of some of those verses. Here we go:
How many angels can pass a needle head-oops! sorry that was the Christian version-ok, let's try again, could you categorize the angels according to their number of their wings, please?
(I've heard Bazargan (or was it Banisadr?) was trying to do something like that in the beginning of the revolution, something like which of them are pink, which of them are blue...but they were probably not 'scholarly' enough, so they got kicked out-but I wouldn't really know because I was just an arrogant, little, teeny weeny baby on those days.)
Another line of rational research: What kind of Sorcery did those nasty 'Shayatin' teach in Sulaiman's reign? Is it still taught in Hogwarts today? Does you-know-who know about them as well?
And what were those Shayatins anyway? Goblins? Pixis? Gnomes? or some draker creatures with Arabic names?

You know,I realize now that these are really *DEEP* discussions. No wonder the 'scholars' , out of the goodness of their hearts I'm sure' warned 'ordinary people' about entering them like that-one might drown in their depths! that's why you should learn to *swim* first, that's what the "Howze"s were all there for..Gee, it's all becoming so clear to me now, thanks guys!

On second thaught... Nah! I guess these stuff doesn't work on *us* anymore after all, Hajir and Niayesh!
But don't give up...there are surely other techniques to bring us back.
Better luck next time!

And Ghazal, I think I've said all that needed to be said in my previous posts. I'm not really into making sure others get convinced and change their minds to the way I like anyway. I might answer in a differnet posting, but this one is REALLY not about Israel.
BTW, here is just anoher link I forgot to put in my previous post, in case you decide not to read it as well:

An Iranian Student at September 14, 2003 06:21 PM [permalink]:

Ooops, I forgot to pu my name on that one too!
My memory! or is it a divine I just beginning to turn into a cockroach?

A Reader at September 14, 2003 08:35 PM [permalink]:

Iranian Student;
No you cannot see the truth before you learn humbleness. That's the first lesson: to acknowledge that we don't know and "God knows best". Only after you install the fear of Allah in your heart, you can reach peace and true knowledge.

Yasin 8-11:

8. We have put yokes round their necks right up to their chins, so that their heads are forced up (and they cannot see).

9. And We have put a bar in front of them and a bar behind them, and further, We have covered them up; so that they cannot see.

10. The same is it to them whether thou admonish them or thou do not admonish them: they will not believe.

11. Thou canst but admonish such a one as follows the Message and fears the (Lord) Most Gracious, unseen: give such a one, therefore, good tidings, of Forgiveness and a Reward most generous.

You asked about the angles and their ranks. I can add more questions to your list that I have no answer for. There are many mysteries in Quran and gradually, as our knowledge increases, we get a better picture. For example take this verse:

(78:6-7)Have We not made the earth as a bed, and the mountains as pegs?

And now we know what that means for mountains have roots beneath the earth. Mountains have an important role in stabalizing the surface of the earth and Quran says:

(16:15)And He has set firm mountains in the earth so that it would not shake with you..."

How could a book written by an illiterate arab (as you may believe) discuss mountains and their roots?

(Quran, 24:43) Have you not seen how God makes the clouds move gently, then joins them together, then makes them into a stack, and then you see the rain come out of it....

Only recently, scientists have found out about these three stages in the formation of clouds.

There are more examples of amazing facts mentioned in Quran about the origin of the universe, Human Embryonic Development, Deep seas and internal waves,... that nobody even at the beginning of the last century could know about them let alone people of 1400 years ago.

The fact that we still have no idea what are the meanings of angles and their ranks doesn't make Quran wrong. Be patient; in future we may understand more.
Look at this imaginary situation:
Assume we have created intelligent beings inside a computer and we as their gods control their lives. Then we send a message to them saying that there are blue and black and red strings bringing power into their world! They will get confused! But as they make progress and we allow them to have access to knowledge as we please, they may come to understand how the computer (their world) works and how we control their lives.
Only "raasikhoon fil'ilm" i.e. those who are steadfast in seeking knowledge can contribute to understanding Quran. When we fail to understand we have to stop and do not reject everything blindly. We just say: We don't know and god knows best so god increase in our knowledge!

Kaveh Kh. at September 14, 2003 08:56 PM [permalink]:

What are you talking about? I wish "an Iranian Student" would unleash his/her harsh ideas about Islam a bit later, so that we wouldn't be reading these kind of things here!

I have only one thing to say on the last comment: If you believe that science is a measure of quality of Qur'an, you are deeply mistaken: Science is pretty much very very shaky and subjective, could be proven wrong any day. What you call scientific facts and ideas in Qur'an could all be proven wrong (or new ones could be found) as Science evolves. This was actually what people like Tabatabi said when observing what people like Bazargan were trying to dig out of Qur'an. Take your pick: Religion as a way of life or religion as a show.

saoshyant at September 14, 2003 09:20 PM [permalink]:

Hear, Hear! Kaveh, well-done, I was just about to make a comment about this type of Quranification of Science and scientification of the Religion.

You are not just a Physicist you are an Epistemologist.

An Iranian Student at September 14, 2003 09:57 PM [permalink]:

Sorry Kaveh about such comments and I promise not to write another single word except this one, PLEASE!, I want to write this last one, ok?

I am so honoured to be picked up by guys like you empty space (since you didn't provide a name to address you with!). I feel so ALIVE!

And yes, I was wondering how it must have felt like in those cave days back thousends of years ago, when the witch doctors shut their critics off with ' you not know our woo-gods mysteries, I not know too (they didn't speak all grammatically correct, you see!)- but I know more you know, so you shut up or else BANG!

Thanks for the experience,pal!
And Iwon't write one more word here anymore Kaveh, promise!

The Bass Voice at September 14, 2003 10:39 PM [permalink]:

Now that the quarrel seems to have reached its end in a climactic coda, I'll throw in my 2 cents:

First of all, the post itself is very intriguing (as the plathora of comments following it confirms) and I'll be looking forward to the rest of the series. Good job, Kaveh!

Secondly, on the main theme, reformation of religion is a very important subject both for believers of the religion in question, here Islam, and the non-believers or its critics. On the one hand, there is no source of infallible information for believers to lean upon in their judgements other than the holy text, and so they can't help but take their own versions of it, no matter if they use rationality or just follow a religious icon, or Mujtahid, blindly. They are bound to make decisions all the time, or once but not for all, as the disagreements among the Mujtahids are also many. On the other hand, there is no escape for non-believers or critics from the fact that religion has always been and still is an important factor in the human communities. It's not conceivable that the problems blamed on religion could be ratified by erasing the cause. Any such attempt would have backlashes beyond imaginable. The only way is to effect such a reformation of religion that addresses the problems.

Thirdly, on the Islam vs. Fascism debate above: I found that the dictionary definition of fascism given by Niayesh actually closely fits what is being done in Iran, except for the nationalistic bit. Nevertheless, I find the debate absurd and at best unnecessary. What is important and should be addressed is the persecuation of dissent that is commonplace in the Islamic societies. I'd like to emphasise that saying things like, this is just the human psyche's nature as reagrds the authority is not good at all (I think Niayesh said that). Islam, islamic countires, and islamic societies are all interconnected, and we are talking about actual things. If there is a pattern, the honest response is at least to accept it.

Fourthly, on the row of textual analysis of Quran, just want to remind that the analysis should be conducted outside the realm of the text itself, unless the internal logic of it is concerned. This rejects, for instance, the kind of response that the ananymous commentor made above at once.


Senior Grad at September 15, 2003 07:27 AM [permalink]:

I wasn't really following the above discussion (I got the impression that there was a lot of GARD-O-KHAK going on though), but Bass Voice's name caught my attention. As before, I find him (a bass voice must be a he; right?) impressively eloquent and well-argued... Salute!

The Bass Voice at September 16, 2003 02:36 PM [permalink]:

Thanks Senior Grad, I'm very much flattered! I hope my bass voice adds to and fits in the harmony of the orchestra of all other voices in this forum!

Praful at September 16, 2003 08:36 PM [permalink]:

“When you meet the unbelievers, strike off their heads; then when you have made wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives.” (Quran47.4).

read this and this. Also, Islamic pseudo-science is exposed here

A Reader at September 18, 2003 01:52 PM [permalink]:

I am sorry to tell you that the websites you mentioned lack authenticity in their contents. A bunch of hateful bigots, who are enemies of Islam for god knows what reason (in any case I am innocent) are spreading lies and hatred against muslims and Islam, the only true religion on earth.

This is a simple example of their lies:

"By the time the Koran was written, all of the Arabic world had been under the domination of the Greek Byzantine Empire for centuries, and had been settled by Greeks since the invasion of Alexander the Great a thousand years before."

What a stupid person has written this article and what stupid people base their opinion on such articles? "Arabic world" didn't make sense back then! It's a complete fabrication of history and a big lie to say that greek byzantinie Empire for centuries had occupied today's saudi arabia! Egypt at that time was not a part of "Arabic world".

I have nothing but pity for such individuals and their followers. Wake up and before it's too late embrace the truth. God is great!

Grand Vizier at September 18, 2003 02:19 PM [permalink]:

Those websites aren't that accurate, but from what I understand, they are certainly not stupid. They are just not very accurate though.

Anyway, I checked that verse from Koran and it seems authentic, although it has a continuation that makes it sound a bit better... Is there an interpretation of that? Of course there is:

hajir at September 19, 2003 12:02 AM [permalink]:

Grand vizir,
The verse refers to the treatment of enemies at the time of war. The so called civilized world has dropped dreadful atomic and chemical bombs on innocent people but many so called rational westerners have been silent and even have tried to justify the horrible ethnic cleansing in palestine as "self fefence". Now you tell me if you are open minded, is killing the enemy in the field of an overt war, cruel and unjust? The verse beautifully asks the muslims not to kill the captives but "to tie them up". We saw the treatment of the civilized world with the Al-Qaedah captives and how they were chained like animals.
It's just amazing how enemies of Islam have run out of reasons to oppose this blessed path of submission and even don't give the right to muslims to kill their enemies at the time of war in the filed and capture those who remain. Just sit back and think for a moment! Compare the wars that early muslims have fought to the wars our civilized nations have fought.
Muslims have been prosecuted and attacked in the most horrifying ways; Christians have been much more violent, at the time of crusades, in Spain, and even in our recent history, in our own country after world war II when british and russian forces entered Iran who had taken no side in the war. They killed thousands of people in Kurdistan alone. Our memory is not that weak, we have not forgotten the christian missionaries behind the british troops entering villages and town of the conquered nations to spread christianity. No, we don't forget palestinian children being killed on a daily basis. And you show me a verse in Quran that states the obvious principle of self defence which is killing the enemy at the war fields and capturing the rest after the war is finished?!
My friend, Islamic regime in Iran has been a shame for all of us. It is a shame for Iran before being a shame for Islam. We all hate oppression but that shouldn't take us too far as to oppose anything that Islamic republic talks about.

BHS at September 19, 2003 02:02 AM [permalink]:


I do not get what point you are trying to make in your response. Are you saying since "the civilized world" has used atomic bombs and killed thousands of people, so what is said in that verse, "make wide slaughter among them", is okay? Or if a war criminal justifies a genocide as "self defnece" then Al-Qaeda terrorists should run free? Or even if christian missionaries followed their crusaders into conquered towns, then the same would be okay for muslim conquerers?

How could other evils in the world justify our own?

AIS at September 19, 2003 03:39 AM [permalink]:

These enemies of Islam...they're just so BAD!

Oh I forgot about my promise! Sorry won't happen again. :)

Kaveh Kh. at September 19, 2003 08:33 AM [permalink]:

Muslims have killed and subverted enough people as well as any other expansionist civilization.

Compared to Christianity and say Buddhism Islam is a very militant religion even as depicted in its main scripture, Qur'an. It is not so hard to see the reason since it nourished among violent people who praised fighting and masculinity and also it grew in a very turbulent time historically.

The problem, is that in today's world, these vesres are not "beautiful" as they were for early Muslims. Instead we find ideas such as equality, tolerance and charity [also present in Qur'an] beautiful nowadays. This has nothing to do with Islamic Republic or Saudi Arabia or whatever other that oppresses in the name of God. Muslims [or anyone, for that matter] should look at their own heart to find the good, the bad and the ugly in Islam.

Senior Grad at September 19, 2003 11:34 AM [permalink]:

I don't think I can offer a meaningful comment on this issue, but allow me to write something anyway. :-) I basically want to draw your attention to the importance of the *context*, where one comes from, although it may not be 100% relevant to the above discussion.

Close your eyes for a moment (after you finish reading this comment, of course) and imagine yourself living in the Arabian desert 14 centuries ago. From my highly flawed historical knowledge, I can tell that you would probably belong to a tribe, and therefore inherit the animosities as well as friendships that the other members of your tribe have established with other tribes. It is, plain and simple, a "tribal" society. (And from my conversations with some Arabs here I can conclude that to this very day, Saudi Arabia, as well as some other Arab nations, is in many ways a tribal society.)

Left to itself, this state of affairs would go on and on, generation to generation, without interruption. Please keep it firmly in your mind that you wouldn't yet have beeb exposed to notions such as liberty, democracy, equality, tolerance, human rights, etc. or at least not the modern versions of such things, the way we understand them today.

Then something not short of a miracle happens. A trustworthy man from among you raises his voice and provides you from all competing and conflicting barbaric tribes with a rationale (for example, the unique God of the whole universe and how humans are related to Him) for peace and harmony among yourselves. All humans are deemed equal in the eye of God and all muslims are brothers and sisters. In the course of couple of decades, the deeply separated tribal society turns to a united muslim society, where as long as you are a muslim (and becoming a muslim was easy), you enjoy certain rights and benefits. (I suppose even if you refused to join the muslim brotherhood, you wouldn't be harmed unless you started inflicting harm on a muslim individual or the muslim ummah.)

Later, however, Islam and muslims would themselves represent a big "tribe" on the global arena, in strife and conflict with other "tribe"s. (Huntington's thesis comes to mind!) So although the idea, back in 14 centuries ago, was not dissimilar to the present idea of giving everybody in the global human community an equal status and ridding all humans of belonging to stupid grouping that are formed based on race and ethnicity, Islam, as it stands today, has ironically turned to the opposite of what it aspired to in the beginning...

hajir at September 19, 2003 12:09 PM [permalink]:

BHS wrote:
"Are you saying since "the civilized world" has used atomic bombs and killed thousands of people, so what is said in that verse, "make wide slaughter among them", is okay?"

No, I am not saying that. I am saying one has to be honest enough with him/herself. If you are against wars altogether then be against "all wars" not only wars that muslims fought. If you are against slaughtering the enemy don't be a hypocrite and condemn the worse forms of slaughtering that is happening to palestinan women and children!

I disagree with Kaveh! Islam is a beautiful religion; It is a comprehensive plan for mankind and hence contains orders concerning wars and fighting. Beauty is not all about flowers and butterflies. In some cases a people need to fight and defend themselves:

"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors." (2:190)

Can't you see the beauty and humanity in this verse?

"And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah. but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression."(2:193)

Islam is a religion that prohibits fighting in four months of the year and prohibits killing of children and women and elders...

Kaveh Kh. at September 19, 2003 12:39 PM [permalink]:

Unfortunately, I can't see any humanity in fighting. Neither do I see beauty to be all about flowers and butterflies.

Do we really need Islam to tell us when we have to fight for our rights? I don't think so. In fact I think the only need for religion is man's personal need of God, as Dostoevski, a very devout and religious man, puts it. Religion can then shape our moral obligations, can become a ringing bell in strange scenarios but will not always provide the answers. It is obvious that there are always limits that one dares not transgress in each situation but who will show us those limits? What is the real beauty of that verse? Why has God forsaken us?

I find it a bit unnatural for myself to engage in a discussion with an ardent believer, who does not hesitate before calling others hypocrites. Nonetheless as the author of the original post, that I still hope to continue, let me tell you a story. The story has to do with the origins of the Zionist movement after WWII. This story has the seed of a new kind of fundamentalism, that, even more than in God, believes in survival, fight and the land.

The story is related by Elie Wiesel who was in a concentration camp in Auschwitz at the time of the Jewish Holocaust. One day Gestapo hanged a young boy. The child was silent and almost calm as they were going to hang him. Behind Wiesel who among other prisoners were forced to watch the child die for half an hour a prisoner asked "Where is God? Where is He?" After the boy died, the same man asked "Where is God now?" And Wiesel heard a voice within him make the answer: "Here he is-Hanging from his gallows."

BHS at September 19, 2003 02:42 PM [permalink]:


`If you are against wars altogether then be against "all wars" not only wars that muslims fought. If you are against slaughtering the enemy don't be a hypocrite and condemn the worse forms of slaughtering that is happening to palestinan women and children!'

I can hardly think of myself as a pacifist. In fact, you are the one who wrote: `We saw the treatment of the civilized world with the Al-Qaedah captives and how they were chained like animals.' Of this I can't draw any conclusions but that you consider this treatment as bad. My questioning was regarding the same happening on the muslims' camp. When I put the verse 2:190 that you quoted beside the one that Praful quoted, 47:4, I have no choice but to believe that Islam does not consider "wide slaughter" of whomever it deems an enemy a transgression. So, please do not try to sell Islam as a religion of peace. If it is any religion of peace, it's the peace among believers of Islam. The non-blelievers of course only deserve a well "wide" slaughter.

I'm not being a hypocrite, or at least I'm trying hard not to be. I also want everybody to be deeply honest. That's why I'm insisting on that Islam is not a pacifist religion either. The whole dispute should be settled somewhere else, that is, in the choice of principles. My preferred principle is human freedom, in all its possible forms.

I perefer to settle the issue by discussion and arguementation, but if I have to defend my mere existance, I'd be willing to fight--that's why I'm not a pacifist--so, no question there.

BHS at September 19, 2003 02:44 PM [permalink]:

By the way, Kaveh: I also hope that you continue this discussion in further posts. Do not be deterred by our petty fights!! :)

Narges at September 19, 2003 04:46 PM [permalink]:

Nietzsche has a speech on comparing Islam and Christianity.He has mentioned some strong points of Islam.The most important points of Islam in his mind is the soul of strenght present in Islam and absent in Christianity.
Dont forget that Mohammad as an Ubrmensch(overman) had the allowence to kill whom he wanted(remember crime and punishment?).In order for him to build an empiry he should have fight with any body standing in his way. But the war was his last choice. You cannot generalize this act to anybody else in Islam. Mohammad is a unique man in Islam and there are many rights for him and not for anybody else. That part of Quran you typed ,was an order to the Prophet and not anybody else.We must be aware of hermeneutic
to interprete this parts of holy text.

Narges at September 19, 2003 05:03 PM [permalink]:

sorry, I meant "the soul of power" not "soul of strenght".

Kaveh Kh. at September 20, 2003 08:38 AM [permalink]:

I think you should also consider the hermeneutics of this speech of Nietzsche as well. Nietzsche first of all is looking for instances of his own ubermensch theory in non-Christian and non-Judaic texts. In fact putting Nietzsche to hermeneutic is far easier than putting Qur'an to it. There have been many instances where applying hermeneutics to Qur'an have resulted in being called an apostate and even execution!

The subject of hermeneutics [science of interpretation and termination, as some call it] of Qur'an is a very intersting discussion, by itself and I hope someone would pick up this thread and start a new post for it. Guest authors are always welcome according to the editors at free AT freethoughts DOT org.

TRA fan at September 20, 2003 07:58 PM [permalink]:

Muhammad was a paedophile and a murderer.
Israel's self defense is not "genocide". The Palestinian terrorists are targeting women and children, while Israel is simply trying to prevent further attacks. I'm sick of anti-semitic propaganda coming out of muslims. All religions are viruses of the mind, and all religions are false. Don't forget Islams bloody history in India. This history is being rewritten by Marxists to make it seem as if the Islamic rule of India was peaceful. This is not the truth. As far as the accuracy of those websites, you should wonder about the accuracy of the quran. You should be skeptical of it. The exact history of Islam's conquests may never be known, but it was spread by sword just like Christianity. To pretend otherwise is foolish. Islam is not the one true religion. All religions are false. You and I are just fancy apes with big brains. I wouldn't try to reform Islam, I would just drop it completely.

hajir at September 20, 2003 11:14 PM [permalink]:

Well if speaking up against the crimes of Israeli army makes me an anti-semite let it be so. Then does that mean that I can call you anti-arab and anti-muslim for speaking up against the bloodshed throughout the history of India? And was it only muslims who attacked inida? All neighbors of India throughout history have done so and even British troops, thousands of miles away enslaved indians. Believe me your case against Islam is not stronger than your case against Britain and does that make you hate british people? Maybe before condemning other nations, you examine the problems within your own nation!

Yes Islam was spread by sword and what's wrong with that? All empires and all civilizations have done so; Islam did it much more humanely and treated the defeated people with much more respect than other victorious nations did throughout the history.
Crusades is one big example; The golden islamic age in spain where jews, christians and muslims were living side by side in peace is another example.

Quran is the word of God and 100% accurate. If you have a proof that negates even one verse of Quran, bring it! I challenge you! But don't try, people who have been more intelligent than you have tried before you and could do nothing against this glorious book. Quran is being read by hundreds of millions and memorized by millions on this planet.

Quran has challenged unbelievers throughout the history to bring even one verse like it but you know what has been the answer? Either they have come up with stupid phrases and have ridiculed themselves or have complained about the conditions of the challenge.

At the end I feel sorry for you; you won't live forever and soon you will meet your creator and he will decide to forgive or punish you. But Quran and this blessed religion will live forever and despite weak enemies like you, it will flourish and the name of Allah will become superior to all names.

Kaveh Kh. at September 20, 2003 11:47 PM [permalink]:

Comments are closed for this entry.