A Probably-Too-Long, Overly-Detailed Account of My Conversion to Islam… For Some Reason.

 

 


In the Name of God, The Caring, the Compassionate.

 

It me. I cat.

 

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Though this is the true story of my conversion, it was originally part of a novel I was working on wherein I’d projected some of my own real life experiences onto a fictional character who was narrating a lengthy chapter as an aside… I’ve since sort of given up on fiction writing (at least for now).  With that noted, I’ve taken the relevant chapter, removed whatever fictitious accretions I’d added, and decided to re-work it into this prattling memoir of sorts.  It’s long, and probably not interesting to anyone but me, -but here it is on the internet nevertheless, for whatever reason.  Perchance it will accomplish something good in time.  Allahu ‘Alim.
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I.  DREAMS, JESUS, AND SO ON.

So, to start with, my first even quasi-spiritual experiences involve a series of reoccurring dreams that I had as a child.  And so, within said dreams I would have lengthy, detailed conversations with a man who I assumed at the time was Jesus (he certainly seemed like Jesus, and had the appearance of what I’d always imagined in my mind’s eye as being the person of Christ).  He was sitting on a camel, Jesus was, and had some disciples with him; I had this dream three or four nights in a row when I was maybe six or seven years old, if memory serves, and whenever I woke up I could never remember what he said.  I would tell my mother about these somnambulant fata morganas, -my mother being nominally Christian at the time (and, as a perhaps relevant note: later she would be much more rigorous in her faith), -so she took these collective dreams as a fairly good sign or omen or prognostication, et. al., the interpretation of which meant (to her) that that I was ultimately going to be led aright, religiously speaking, esp. considering that, to her knowledge, no one else in our family –all or most of whom were similarly Christian- had ever had anything even remotely resembling an oneiric vision of Jesus, but yet, here he was even so, appearing in my phantasmagorias.  Also worth noting that I remember these dreams even now, primarily because 1) they were reoccurring, as stated, and 2) they were extremely vivid / realistic; -meaning, in essence, they made a huge imprint somewhere in the old gray matter, as if intended to forever etch something within (or upon) both my conscious and subconscious mind.

(It should be noted I no longer think that it was Jesus I was seeing.  To start with, he was sitting on a camel in the dream; -Dromedaries not being native to Palestine.  The gospels make no mention of him ever riding a camel, as this has little if anything to do with Biblical Messianic prophesy.  Had he been on a mule, my interpretation might be different.  At any rate, I’ll let the reader draw whatever conclusions they wish).

The general crux or overall point here is that I spent most of my childhood feeling pretty good about the whole ‘Jesus’ thing; which is to say that I think I sort of intuitively knew that there was something special about him, which, though it may sound strange coming from a Muslim-convert, it nevertheless will be fairly relevant to my story going forward; or, to put it another way: the whole ‘Jesus’ backstory is just another way for me to iterate that I’ve always been okay with Christ.  Like, I was never mad or angry at him for doing this or that thing to me (back when I conceptualized him as God), nor was I ever miffed that ‘Jesus’ had supposedly caused this or that thing to occur in my life, or what have you.  I sort of took things as they came when I was little is what I’m attempting to convey here, even though I was like, being raised by a single mother in the Southern U.S., living in penury, etc., still, it was as if I hardly noticed any of it and more or less had a pretty good time.  The whole childhood-in-poverty thing was experienced almost as if I was witnessing that period of my life as a strange, anomalous observer of some sort, rather than… I don’t know what.  The point is sort of getting away from me here, if I’m being honest.  But anyways, some of this is going to be so arcane that you’re going to have to use your intuitive faculties as best you can, so, you might as well get used to the ambiguity right off the bat, I suppose.

But I’d say that while I never had a problem with J.C. (i.e., Jesus), -still, something sort of changed, spiritually speaking, by the time I made it to highschool, mainly owing to the fact that I was no longer insulated within my Christian-conservative, Biblical-literalist, evangelical bubble (-this is def. how I’d describe my friends and family, growing up –Biblical literalists and / or evangelical).  In essence, it’d be pretty accurate to say that I met all types during the later years of my public education, including Atheists and Agnostics who, very often, would offer pointed critiques of the Bible for which I didn’t have answers, even qua someone raised in the aforementioned Biblical-literalist household (I only later learned that Biblical-literalism is a fairly new movement in Christianity, and that more traditional Christianity views the Bible not so much as ‘God’s literal word,’ but more like God’s inspiration, which He sort of insufflated within the heart and-or mind of an enlightened individual who was then allowed to frame grand, important ideas within the parameters of pablumized language / worldviews so that the uneducated illiterates and bucolic goat herders [&c.] of his time could grasp the general point, even if some of the specifics were scientifically inaccurate, errant, paradoxical, et cetera.  –but that’s another topic).  Anyways, the general point is, while I maintained a rather mild, and –by this point- admittedly distant respect for the personage of Jesus, I started losing faith in the codex that purported to tell us about him, -here referring to the Bible.

And I mean, a lot of this is sort of difficult to unpack from a psychoanalytical standpoint, because on the one hand, I did rationally decipher, even if only subconsciously (or, perhaps more factually stated: only quasi-consciously), that the Atheists and Agnostics in highschool had some sort of point re: their critiques of the Bible (esp. considering that, excepting about 6 or 7 of the letters of Paul –who is a questionable figure in his own right- the aforementioned codex is largely written by unnamed individuals of unknown origin and-or veracity); -so, yeah, I mean, I recognized somewhere deep down that their arguments had merit, but also somewhere deep down, meaning, somewhere else deep down, I also knew that I was not what one might call bad-looking as it relates to the opposite sex (of whom I was very much beginning to notice), this being a sort of roundabout way of saying that I was for all intents and purposes a stereotypical hot-blooded American male that was very willing to jump all over any excuse that would allow me to forego some of the constricting mores of the Bible, which could maybe be agglomerated into a cohesive point that basically would in essence mean that by the time I was fifteen or so, roughly a third of my brain was telling me that the Atheist / Agnostic arguments re: the Bible were in fact rational, and another third of my brain was telling me that it was totally awesome that their arguments were rational because it meant I could drink beer and have sex before marriage, &c. &c., and then the final third of my brain sort of held the ‘person’ of Jesus in a weird state of prorogation or abeyance, where he was now divorced from any Biblical context, but instead was just this numinous ‘figure’ –about whom I had no earthly idea what I was supposed to believe, but still somehow recognized somewhere in my soul that there was something special and very ‘real’ about him that was relevant in a way I wasn’t ready to comprehend or fathom, or what have you, and so until I knew what to do with all this information I would just live my life like your average American fifteen-year-old who was beginning to attract the interest of the fairer sex and who also had a somewhat curious and experimental approach to life.  Meaning: from that time onward (about the ages of fifteen to nineteen), if, hypothetically, someone would have been, say, spying on me from afar, or scrutinizing my life, they wouldn’t have seen anything too terribly different from anyone else from that selfsame, general age group.  I fell in love a few times, dated a lot, broke up with girlfriends and was broken up with, had a few casual flings, drank a lot of alcohol –this was during my junior (3rd) year of highschool, the drinking, and owing to a bad breakup, -but then, I hardly drank at all my senior year, by which time I’d pretty much gotten over the prenominate breakup (owing to the aforementioned ‘flings,’ as well as getting into the arts, chiefly: writing, albeit mostly poetry at that inchoate period in my psychological development).

 

II.  HARROWING EXPERIENCES, SINFUL YOUTH, ETC.

There was one atypical thing that happened during this time though, but before I can explain it I need to backtrack a little and explain something else, this ‘something else’ basically being that, even during my drinking-and-philogyny period, and despite all the supposed ‘fun’ I was having, -still, or that aside, or what have you, I have to be frank and disclose the fact that whenever I had some time to myself, or really, any free time to think about and-or observe anything at all, I noticed in such moments that I was sort of different, mentally speaking, or, at least, more different than everyone around me, which I mean in the sense that I had these existential questions that no one else seemed to have, insomuch as I could tell.  These questions would sort of creep up on me though, and sometimes they’d be the result of significant events happening in my life, like, for example, the time I lost my virginity (and though this datum is not chiefly relevant, still, for the sake of ‘fleshing everything out’ it might be relevant to mention that the other ‘actor’ in this episode was a girl that I used to date and with whom I was very much not in love… I think the whole relationship could be filed under the heading of a ‘toxic romance’).  Specifically, I’m talking about the fact that I remember quite distinctly how it didn’t feel ‘right,’ i.e., that something felt ‘off’ about the actual act of fornication, and I remember having to suppress that feeling so that I could go through with it.  And so at first I guess I’d attributed the phenomenon to the shame of my Christian upbringing, as if maybe I had some psychological hang-ups after having been told all my life that premarital sex was wrong and immoral, et cetera, but the thing is, it wasn’t really my first rodeo (I feel I should be honest about my philogynist past), but none of my actions made me feel particularly bad before (esp. considering that it was all consensual).  It was only the moment of actual fornication (in the ‘full stop’ sense) that I felt… guilty.  The overall point being that there were these little moments, even in the midst of the debauchery, that were sort of reminding me that I had this unnamable, ineffable angst that just sort of clouded everything, as if there was some matter that I couldn’t even describe or articulate or tell you what it was if you’d asked me, -as if that matter, whatever it was, just wasn’t… resolved.

And I mean, don’t get me wrong, I could numb the angst, and sometimes even find these ephemeral moments of happiness, here and there.  But if I’m being completely and 100% truthful, when I look back on it now I can see that everything, including the happy times, -all of them taken together seemed to end without clear resolution or else they would be (or seem to merely serve as) some harbinger of disappointment or something, and it would be in the disappointment and confusion that the questioning and existential malaise would really take hold of me.  So take for an apposite example: after my first serious girlfriend dumped me for another guy on the night of our one year anniversary, or, for another pertinent reference: about a year after that, when I was dating this other girl named Seven (not her real name, obviously, but she did have a rather strange name sort-of-like-but-not-really-Seven), and how that was probably the only time I was ever truly in love with someone, and how wonderful that felt, being in love I mean, but it was only for about six or seven months before she inexplicably just lost interest in me; or maybe it’d be something akin to one of my dear friends that I’d shared a lot of intimate feelings and worries (&c.) with, -friends being so incredibly important during your teenage years after all, and so one of my friends would suddenly move to another state or whatever, and when I’d look at all this objectively and after the fact, I’d start to see that everything just felt so funereal and fleeting, so transient or fugitive, so evanescent or passing, etc., -which was a fact that I’d become cognizant of from a fairly early age; sometimes I’d find myself thinking about it –meaning, the ephemera of life, even in the so-called happier moments.  Sometimes too there was no reason; there would just be this sudden angst that I couldn’t decipher the origins of, and so, anyways, long story short, as a response to this enduring lassitude that I was experiencing, I started meditating.  That’s the atypical thing that happened along with all of the normal (American) boyhood stuff like discovering girls, and alcohol, and so on: I started meditating.

In the spirit of full disclosure, just so you understand where I was at by this point in my life, I don’t think it would be altogether beside the point if I were to do a bit of navel-gazing here and admit that I now believe, when looking back on it, that the meditation was initially just my way of seeking some escape from the discomfiting cafard while also simultaneously acting as maybe a spiritual cry for help that was arising within me, all of the quasi-latent turmoil being due to these secret existential crises I was having and not really consciously addressing in any meaningful way, -but also, if I’m being honest, I’d have to likewise admit that I relished the idea that it was something different, the meditation, and so maybe there was a little bit of ego wrapped up in it too, this notion of being all proud of myself for being open minded enough to give meditation a try at the ripe young age of fifteen, which is absurd and extremely paradoxical, the suggestion that one would be proud of meditating, or of any spiritual practice, really.  But also though, try to remember I was an adolescent at the time, so I mean, I’m not going to do everything perfectly or become a guru or saint right off the bat.

That said, and just to sort of move the story along, let’s put it that I had no clue how to engage in this sort of reverie, because, being a teenager and, also considering that a common affliction of this particular age group, -of which I myself was also afflicted with said infirmity heretofore under discussion- is what might be referred to in popular argot as being a quote-unquote ‘know-it-all’, and so I didn’t necessarily do any careful research as to how to properly meditate, which essentially means that I certainly wasn’t doing it, -meditating, I mean- in any sort of way that would be in accord with any specific religious orthopraxy. Most of the time I would just sit cross-legged and repeat ‘ommmmmmmmm’ over and over again, not really getting anything out of it, for the most part. Although there was one experience I had, but it was hardly something that could be considered enlightening in the way most Westerners (read: Americans) would understand the term; it was in actual fact incredibly disturbing. And so, having evinced this, I know you don’t want to be held in a so-called ‘state of suspense,’ so, to get right to it, basically what happened was: in the course of meditating and saying ‘ommmmmmmmm’ for an exceedingly long duration one afternoon (the afternoon in question being one in which I was both consciously and acutely aware of how irritated I was at not yet having any real experiences as a result of my aforementioned spiritual practices, at least not to date, and so I resolved to meditate until something, -and it could be literally anything supramundane, however slight-  so I went into this particular meditation session determined not to leave off of it until I had a real, true, and bonafide experience), -and so what happened was, after about an hour of sitting perfectly still and saying ‘ommmmmmmmmmm’ –an ‘hour or so’ being roughly the amount of time it took for said experience to come on like a flash, that much I remember, -referring, again, to the sudden onset of said ‘experience;’ the only way to really describe it being that I ‘went inside myself,’ –which would imply that this sort of spiritual exposure was less an ‘out of body’ experience and more a ‘traveling within’ type of thing, wherein I was to, apparently, or, so it seemed to me much later and after the fact, at least, -so, wherein I was to actually catch a glimpse of my own soul or internal, ontological ‘Being’ with a capital ‘B.’ The thing is though, what I saw wasn’t all that reassuring or enlightening; rather it was terrifying and generally harrowing because what I had ‘peeked into’ in that moment of intramural perception was not a soul in a state of sanguine acceptance, but rather something incredibly turbulent and petrifying and generally chaotic. To put the experience into words (which is going to be excruciatingly difficult, btw), I would have to say that my internal self, i.e., my ‘real’ self, i.e. me as ‘Being’ with a capital ‘B,’ –and so my internal self, which my ‘other’ self, i.e., the ‘I’-as-observer bore witness to at that point in time or, rather, what the ‘I’-as-observer gazed upon in abject terror was something kindred to a deep dark drain, -here again, and just for clarity, referring to the intramural or ‘real’ self or self-essence- and so that aspect of ‘me’ was basically a black void that was sucking a violent storm-cloud replete with these anarchic, roiled, ‘Z’-shaped zig-zags of lightning down into itself, down into the drain, I mean… and there ‘I’ was –the ‘I’ as in, the observer-of-self, being sucked down into this gargantuan, unendurable drain right alongside the storm-cloud and its deranged-looking, tempestuous lightning. It felt very much like a kind of Russian doll situation wherein I was being pulled into my own ‘pneuma’ or ‘Being,’ –and so like, instead of the Russian doll opening to let a smaller version of itself out, it was an inversion of that: the Russian doll was sucking smaller versions of itself into itself, and I somehow intuited or realized that if I didn’t come out of this meditative state immediately, i.e., ASAP, i.e., as soon as humanly possible, then I was going to get pulled into the ‘drain of my Being’ forever, and never be able to escape. Outwardly though, -meaning, if I had to guess what my body would hypothetically look like to an outside observer after said self-sucking-into-self was complete, I would probably posit that I’d henceforth and forever appear to be comatose or catatonic or something, all the while inwardly I’d be floating in this neverending series of ‘selfs’ for all eternity, –all of which were mired in chaos, -the selfs, -as well as confusion, darkness, tumult, and so on, et cetera. But anyways, long story short, and to get to the point, I was able to break out of the meditative state somehow (and the how I don’t remember at all), this release occurring just before being sucked into the ‘Drain of Being,’ -and so, upon opening my eyes, I was very glad indeed to be once again staring at the wall of my parent’s living room, i.e., back in so-called reality. As I’m sure you can imagine.

Now, of course, one might be tempted to think that this would be the end of my meditating days, but as idiotic as this is going to sound, fact of it is: one would be wrong in so assuming.  -To put it succinctly, or whatever: I continued the practice, albeit in an altered fashion, which is to say that I merely modified the outward form of the meditation and made it into something unrecognizable (meaning that if you were to just happen across me whilst I was meditating in this phase my life, you would in no way recognize what I was doing as any known style, type, or mode of spiritual practice), -the position was akin to sitting cross-legged, but instead of straightening my back (what is called ‘seiza’ in Zen meditation), I would lean forward with my forehead on the ground and experience whatever it was that my face came into contact with, be it the carpet, or a rug, or a tile floor, or grass, or dirt, et cetera, but also too though, I’d left off reciting the ‘ommmmmmmmm’ and opted for silent meditation instead.  So yeah.  Basically, it was like a partial or quasi- meditation experience, but silently now and without the intonation of any mantras or litanies or what have you, though the most important datum here is that I had, at this point, superadded a lengthy prostration for the duration of my reverie, i.e., I’d put my face on the ground or floor (&c.), -but as to why I was doing this, I have no earthly idea.  I can’t really remember my motivations at the time, though I suppose if I was to suddenly find myself in some sort of gun-to-my-head type situation whereby I was forced to procure a kind of answer or guess or surmise or hypothesis (so on and so forth), I would say that, at this historical marker in my spiritual biography, I was just throwing everything at the wall and waiting to see what stuck, pneumatically speaking.

 

III.  (NOT REALLY) BECOMING MUSLIM

Anyways though.  Long story short, it was on one now-preterite afternoon some time toward the end of my junior year of highschool, i.e., year four (out of 5 –highschool starting in 8th grade and going until 12th) of that particular lustrum of my life, and so my junior year was when I’d managed (on one of my atypically sober days) to perform the aforementioned and admittedly weird and self-invented mode of so-called ‘meditation’ in a public space, -as in, right there in the courtyard of my school, directly in front of any and all passers-by.  And I remember the weather on the day in question was already warm owing to the fact that it was late spring; the day was sunny, the skies being a sort of blue that they can only really be in memories like this, and for whatever reason (I’m unable now to elicit the exact cause, as pretty much the whole of my junior year is somewhat of a crapulous blur) I was feeling forlorn and melancholy (so on), and decided, after a few moments of ratiocination as to the etiology of said crestfallen malaise, to try and ameliorate the negativity by meditating right there in the grass in front of everyone (and this, since, by that point in my highschool career I was unequivocally in a frame of mind that I would have, at the time, described as ‘not giving a single solitary fuck what people think and/or thought’).   So I ‘meditated.’  Thing is though, while I was doing this outré, dilettante-type rumination, what with my face smashed into the verdure and everything, one of my buddies, i.e., a friend and acquaintance, just happened by me and stood there watching as I prostrated myself in the school’s courtyard in what I assume was a state of mild fascination.  I’d never really mentioned to anyone before this moment that I was into any kind of spirituality, so I imagine this action probably confused everyone who both knew me and subsequently witnessed said action, up to and including Jeb, -which was how I (and everyone else) referred to him, Jeb, although I don’t think this was his real name, but anyways it’s what we called him.  And so Jeb came up to me after my ‘meditation’ was complete and as I was finally standing up to reacquaint myself with mine own surroundings but, the thing is, Jeb had apparently recently watched a rather detailed biopic on Cat Stevens that had aired on television a few night’s prior, and had assumed or hypothesized, or what have you, -so he figured after seeing my strange prostrations in the grass that I had apparently converted to Islam, and made an inquiry to that effect.

“Dude,” he said, turning my torso in his direction and then holding me with two huge hands, one on each of my shoulders, and –this I remember clearly: he was smiling, for some reason that I’ve never been able to figure out; just, there was a huge grin smeared across his already wide maw (he was a big guy with a big head, and had an unusual amount of hair for a teenager, btw, just so you can get an at least semi-accurate mental image of him… a hefty, hirsute, guy in JNCO jeans, a pony tail, and full goatee) so, yeah, I have no idea why he was smiling; but, “dude,” he said, “Did you convert to Islam?”

Now, this is one of the episodes that is going to seem a bit off or ambiguous, et. al., but the plain truth of it is, when he asked me that, I simply responded, “Yes,” without thinking or considering my answer in the slightest, which I admit is sort of a rationalizing, equivocal way of saying that my answer was basically a lie, and an especially dumb lie to boot, considering I knew virtually nil about the religion to which I had just professed to belong.  I honestly thought at the time, -and I say this with both remorse and with the objective of being completely truthful as my primary intent here, but I honestly thought back in those days that the Muslim’s deity, ‘Allah,’ was some vaporous Arab genie with huge pecs floating in the clouds and that He most likely held a scimitar and was going to smite anyone that crossed Him; -such was the extent of my knowledge of Islam, and even that turned out to be woefully, absurdly, and ridiculously incorrect (and, btw, assuming you’re a non-Muslim reading this, odds are, your knowledge is probably only infinitesimally better than what mine was at the time anent Islam.  Point being: don’t feel bad about this fact, here referencing your probable ignorance, since, I mean, I’m now a practicing Muslim, and yet, at one point, I was likely more ignorant than you currently [and, presumably] are regarding the faith in question).  But the sixty-four-thousand dollar question here would most likely be: why did I lie?  Like, why not just say, ‘No dude, I’m not Muslim.  I was just meditating… in my own weird way…’  -I mean, I know you’re –meaning, you, the reader- and so you’re probably dying to know the answer to this question, but the thing is, -and this is going to really shock you, but: so am I, (dying to know the answer, I mean), because I really have no earthly idea why I answered his inquiry the way I did; I just know that this is the way it happened.  And I suppose I could cerebrate, excogitate, hazard a guess, or whatever, which, if pressed to do so, I think maybe in the split second between him asking the question and my own answering of it, peradventure, maybe, or mayhap there flashed in my mind or heart some sort of genuine and assured… something or other.  I wouldn’t know what to call it.  Maybe I just liked how the word sounded.  ‘Islam.’  Something about the way the syllables flowed in their specific propinquity, as if I were intuiting something hidden in the gematria of the original Arabic letters that came together to make that word, or, as if the word meant more than ‘Islam’ as currently (and unfortunately) conceptualized in the media and the minds of most Westerners, -perhaps I gleaned something in that flash of a second, just from hearing the word, ‘Islam,’ and my soul forced a response before my brain had time to calculate anything.  Then again though, if I’m being honest, it’s just as likely that maybe none of this is true; it could be that it’s all just an overly romantic confabulation, all the while the truth of the matter is that there is nothing of substance beyond the fact that one day a friend, for whatever reason, randomly asked me if I had converted to Islam, and I answered in equally random fashion that I had.

So, I mean, there it is I guess; my first real introduction to Islam.  And after this event though, there  followed a further two years wherein, if anyone happened to inquire as to my religion, I answered that I was ‘Muslim’ simply because I didn’t know what else to tell people, and also too I guess part of my continuance of this charade had to do with the fact that I’d already affirmed previously that I was Muslim (and however foolishly or falsely I claimed such a thing is somewhat beside the point), my thinking from there on out being that I should simply go with it until I uncovered something better, spiritually or theologically speaking, or what have you; or until I made a firm decision one way or another re: my personal spiritual path, though I do unreservedly here admit that had no solidified idea as to why I was telling people that I was Muslim for this biennial life-interval, nor did I have even the remotest clue as to what such a declaration even meant; it was literally just something I said, essentially mere words thrown out of my mouth without consideration and not much more than that.  Also during this time I suppose it’s worth noting that I did eventually give up on meditating because, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there really and truly was, let’s call it an ‘unseen’ reality or element to things; some sort of spiritual plane of existence that was overlapped on top of (or underneath) the one we human beings so often refer to as ‘reality,’ –and I’d gone down into myself and took a peep into (or, at) the internal mechanism of my own ontological Being and how it operated within this unseen reality, and was terrified at what I saw, and very nearly got trapped there, wherever ‘there’ in fact was, ultimately.  In short, it was not a pleasant or serene experience, and I didn’t want to repeat it unless I knew what the hell I was doing, you can bet your bottom dollar as far as that’s concerned, and hence, or, thus, or so it was that, until such a time as I felt comfortable re-exposing myself to that type of meta-reality, I considered it best to delay any and all spiritual practices, esp. any form of meditation, be it an actual, recognized form, or one I made up myself, or some similar salmagundi.  Basically, I was thenceforth (and, possibly forever) determined to just be, or exist as, some guy, a random dude or chap or whatever, that sometimes told people he was Muslim, usually only when asked about it, and though this roughly two year time-frame was a totally absurd interim in my life, still, that aside, one thing did arise from this period worth mentioning, this being that, namely: whenever I told someone I was Muslim, they would ask me questions about the faith.  Questions such as but not limited to: ‘Really?  That’s cool!  So what do Muslims believe?’ or, ‘So, do you pray five times a day?’ or, ‘Can you have more than one wife?’ or, ‘So who exactly is Muhammad?’ or, ‘What does the Qu’ran teach, anyways?’ &c. &c., -I’m sure you get the idea without me needing to provide any further examples but, point here being that I found myself becoming increasingly ashamed of my own ignorance, abashed at not having anything even remotely resembling a coherent answer for such querists, which means that, initially, I would just ‘wing it,’ as the expression goes, in terms of giving answers, -but still, by and by, I found myself similarly curious as to the answers –meaning, the actual, true answers, and at some point toward the end of the biennial period began researching and trying to find rejoinders to these occasional questions.

 

IV.  MY FIRST EXPERIENCE(S) WITH THE QU’RAN

Here it is that we arrive at my second genuine spiritual experience (which will likewise get us at least heading in the direction of my true conversion moment, kinda-sorta), this one having nothing to do with meditation, but rather it had to do with a book; specifically I’m speaking of the Holy Qu’ran, which I assume you knew was going to come up at some point, and here (i.e., this segment, and more specifically, this exact place within said segment) is certainly the best spot for it, at least, linearly speaking; the gist of this part of the narrative being roughly that: for a brief period, I had fallen back in to some form of camaraderie with the aforementioned girlfriend with whom I was not in love but was physically attracted to nevertheless, and to whom I’d lost my virginity some years prior, but our détente notwithstanding, there was the occasional kerfuffle between the two of us, none of which –here referring to the aforementioned arguments / kerfuffles- -and so, none of which I remember the genesēs for, which is to say I don’t recall what it was that we ever fought about, topic-wise, I only know that we argued.  So it was that, after one such contretemps that, apparently later realizing that at least on this occasion she was the one that was in the wrong, and so she purchased for me as a piacular offering an English translation of the Muslim Holy Book, i.e., the Qu’ran, handing it to me one winter afternoon as we walked through the desolate sidewalks of the tranquil, idyllic courtyard of our school.  I suppose I’d made some mention to her, as I had with many others by this juncture, regarding my interest in Islam (and my foolishly professing to be Muslim), and so that was her motivation, at least, as best I recall.  At any rate, suffice it to say I took the book to my next class, and while the teacher droned on about Shakespeare or some other such thing, I immediately and clandestinely opened my newest gift to the title page, reading only the denomination, in English:  ‘The Holy Qu’ran.’  -Now, when I did this, meaning, when I first opened the book and looked at the printed words, ‘The Holy Qu’ran,’ –I felt something move within me.  Like most spiritual experiences, this ‘movement’ was both indefinable and marvelous; the best way to put it would be that I felt ‘overwhelming goodness,’ and that I recognized instantaneously that this ‘goodness’ –whatever it was- most certainly did not come from my own self or psyche per se, but rather was foisted upon me externally by forces unseen, and yet, that said, it was so momentary and ephemeral that someone else could have easily had the same experience, yet nevertheless they might brush it off as something better left to the psychoanalysts, and basically educe nothing from it.  Still though, I’m not someone else; I’m me.  Me, meaning, the same guy who had a very real encounter with my own turbulent soul while in a meditative state some years prior, and who, as a child, had lucid, reoccurring dreams of (who I thought was) Jesus, et. al., and so it was much less commodious for me to discount something experiential like this because, I mean, by this point in my life I knew that there was something beyond the sublunary, even if I wasn’t 100% sure what, exactly, it was, -all of which is to say that to simply ignore this very real spiritual moment would, to me at least, feel both facile and overly dismissive.  So, with the aim of brevity here, let’s just say that I remembered this extremely fleeting, yet equally real and lucid moment; my first encounter with the Qu’ran, and the strange feeling of ‘wholesome grace’ that accompanied it.

Still, inchoate spiritual graces notwithstanding, it would be a mistake to assume that my relationship with the Qu’ran going forward was something splendorous, or that I had innumerable awakenings or moments of enlightenment when I first perused the text; in point of fact the first time I read it (or, more factually, attempted to read it, since I gave up after getting only about 2/3rds of the way through) –it was an abysmal disaster that put me off from further attempts to broach the text for another full year.  To this end, or in service of my point, I offer a quote regarding the Qu’ran that was penned by one of the German renaissance writers, Goethe I believe it was, who said (or, wrote), that, “however often we turn to it (meaning, the Qu’ran), at first disgusting us each time afresh, it soon attracts, astounds, and in the end enforces our reverence… Its style, in accordance with its contents and aim, is stern, grand, terrible – ever and anon truly sublime…” –because I’d say that pretty much sums up my initial feelings as I wrestled with it that first go around.  Basically, I could probably put it more succinctly or clearly by saying that the first time I attempted to conquer the translation purchased for me by the ex-girlfriend and paramour with whom I was still engaged in some sort of let’s-call-it inappropriate relationship (a perhaps relevant detail, since I would later learn that one’s moral, internal state determines what sort of spiritual connection one will have with Revelation, -or, to put this same point another way so as to add additional clarity: the sort of metaphorical inner ‘eye’ that one uses to ‘see’ God can produce a corrupted imago of the Divine owing to the relative amount or degree of sinful debris that has accreted upon one’s soul, i.e., upon the ‘inner eye’ itself), but at any rate though, I found myself oscillating between confusion and aversion re: the Qu’ran initially, because, first of all, and for those unfamiliar, it’s not a ‘book’ in the classic, Western sense of the term; it’s more like a series or collection of missives from God to man, -to one man in particular, meaning Sayyidina (‘Sayyidina’ being an Arabic denomination of respect that can be loosely defined as a ‘spiritual and moral liege-lord,’) Muhammad –upon whom be peace!-, and these ‘Divine telegrams,’ as I like to conceptualize them, are arranged in no particular order.  There doesn’t appear to be any narrative structure at first glance, and since I was not in any way, shape, or form understanding or comprehending what I was reading during my first few forays, the whole thing left me bewildered, which says nothing of the fact that, though it’s a rather clever device in Arabic, even so, the ‘Author,’ or Narrator of the Qu’ran, (quite literally, God, according to the Muslim) employs constant pronoun switches from first person singular, to first person plural, to third person, etc., to achieve various stirrings within the reader, and while this works to profound effect in the original Arabic, in the English translation it serves no purpose other than to completely confuse the peruser.  –Also too, there was this other problem, chiefly that I was seeing Judea-Christian names in the text that I was already quite familiar with, which totally put me off for a number of reasons, -and by Judea-Christian ‘names’ here I’m referring to Biblical figures such as but not limited to: Adam, Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon, even John the Baptist and Jesus, which I mean, those last two were totally surprising, as I’m sure you can imagine (and which I don’t mean in a good way ,-at the time I remember feeling disappointed).  To sum up my emotions on this latter point, it could be said that I felt, as a former evangelical Christian-turned-Agnostic, -and so I felt as if, while reading the Qu’ran, that perhaps I was treading routine waters here, to say nothing of how confounding and impenetrable the text seemed to be, at least, initially.

 

V.  ‘TRUE FAITH’ AS A RATIONAL EXERCISE IN VERIFICATION OF CLAIMS:

At any rate, how it was that the first of what I call tricklings of true faith entered my heart was that some time after my first attempts to approach the Qu’ran as described above^ (I’m unsure of the exact amount of time as this period of my life now runs all together and the events bleed over into one another in my mind), -so after giving up on trying to understand the Muslim’s holy book was when I discovered that a friend of mine, though not Muslim himself, nevertheless had a Muslim father who although not practicing or serious about the faith in any way himself, nevertheless had some religious texts in English that explained certain relevant aspects and other minutiae of the faith in detail, up to and including a wholly different translation of the Qu’ran that had a commentary which was typeset in fine print at the bottom of each page of the translation in question; essentially footnotes, albeit rather lengthy ones, that gave an explanation for each verse; for example: the occasion or reason for each verse being revealed (called asbāb al-nuzūl in Arabic), and so it was in meticulously studying this aforementioned commentary that ultimately aided in my deciphering what the Qu’ran actually was, as mentioned earlier, here referring to when I said or wrote that it was something like a series of letters or telegrams from God delivered to Sayyidina Muhammad –upon whom be peace!- and this is also how I further came to grasp that the Qu’ran as it exists today is not in chronological order as one might expect, but rather simply arranged from longest chapter to shortest, -and then I discovered that he, meaning the insouciant Muslim father of the non-Muslim friend of mine, was enthusiastically willing to hand over these materials to me so as to further my understanding of the religion.  I of course read them voraciously, and upon said reading was surprised to discover that, as my understanding of what, exactly, Islam in fact was, increased, so did my educement that perhaps I had unwittingly, through nothing more than youthful idiocy, actually stumbled onto a faith that made some kind of sense.  What I’m getting at here is: I remember being pleasantly surprised that the Qu’ran criticized the Bible with much the same arguments that my Atheist and Agnostic highschool friends had given as reasons for their rejection of that particular faith, and yet, these selfsame arguments couldn’t be applied to the Qu’ran itself; or rather, to put it a bit less ‘hard-edged,’ –it would be exceedingly more difficult to posit that the Qu’ran had been tampered with or was of dubious or unknown origins since, when you look throughout the earliest Muslim history (even when said history is documented by nonbelieving historians), it’s no secret that their early Islamic empires were nearly rent asunder with a multitude of sectarian schisms and civil wars, but none of these wars were over the validity of the Qu’ranic text (and this should be noted while simultaneously ‘keeping it in one’s head’ that saying the same of the Bible would be absurd in modern academic circles).  All sides of whatever arguments there were or may have been amongst the early Muslim schismatics during that embryonic period of what we might call Islamic Imperialism that arose shortly after the death of the Prophet, -none of the ‘sides’ or partisans of any particular dispute in question ever claimed that their enemies (who were also Muslim) had altered the Qu’ran; it was always a question of interpretation, not textual corruption, nor was textual editing or manipulation ever brought up as a charge against whatever schismatic ‘other,’ or what have you.  Point being that, unlike with the Bible, there was never a time in Muslim history where the faithful fought each other over which surahs –or, chapters- should or should not be included into the codex, or whether such-and-such verse had been added or deleted, so on and so forth.  Of course we could talk about variant readings, i.e., modes of recitation or qira’āt (or aḥrūf) (since the Qu’ran is a text that is meant to be recited more-so than read), -which do certainly exist, the variant readings I mean, -and much ado is made about these so-called ‘variant readings’ among those antagonistic to the faith; but the Muslim intelligentsia have accepted all of these modes of recitation as acceptable, citing a tradition of Muhammad to that effect; and furthermore, the various qira’āt do not alter the meaning of any specific verse in any significant way in most cases, at any rate.   But really, this is an entirely different discussion that would require far too much tortuous nuance to do any justice here, so, regarding all this I should at least feign an interest in brevity I suppose, and leave it at this but passing mention.

I will say that I was also pleased to discover that the secondary texts that are relevant to the Islamic tradition, namely, the hadith (i.e., the sayings of –and anecdotes about- the Prophet Muhammad –upon whom be peace! –which are kept separate from the Qu’ran, and which, unlike the hadith, Muslims believe to be the direct word of God, -meaning the Qu’ran is the direct word of God,  while the hadith are considered the instructions of Muhammad alone, -just so we’re clear), had a strict method that had been followed in terms of authenticating their historical accuracy, the hadith did, even though they were written down at a much later date than the Qu’ran (excepting the recently discovered Musannaf of Abd al-Razzaq, as well as Imam Malick’s Muwatta, both of which are very early books of hadith / traditions), but, even so, the early scholars in the field of hadith studies took great pains to inspect the isnād, i.e., the chain(s) of narrators, linking a certain report from the one who transcribed it into whatever hadith book in question, back to the Apostle, investigating the route starting with the text that said tradition / hadith arrived in, and moving from its placement within whichever hypothetical codex it happened to later be transcribed / documented within, back to the Apostle himself, and any names, or links in the chain, to follow the metaphor, that were unknown, or found to be untrustworthy, or irreligious, or what have you, would automatically render any such report to be questionable (or, da’if, -‘weak,’ in Islamic parlance), if not outright fabricated.  Other reports had such strong (and / or short) chains of transmission, -or so many different, reliable, chains / sanād (sing. of isnād) that it, meaning the hadith in question, could be elevated to a classification known as ‘mutawatīr saḥīḥ’ or, basically, of unquestionable historical veracity.  All of which is simply a prolix way of arriving at this point: after intensive study, I came to trust the Islamic texts infinitely more so than the Biblical canon upon which I was raised to believe, and found the whole process that the early Muslims underwent to ensure that they didn’t fall into the same errors as their monotheist predecessors more or less satisfactory.  Which surprised me.

Still though, my verification of the Qu’ran being an unaltered text insomuch as it represented something that was certainly delivered from Muhammad –upon whom be peace!- to his disciples, and the meticulous methodology of scrutinizing reports about the Prophet himself in the prenominate hadith literature notwithstanding, none of this in and of itself proves anything re: the Divine origin of said texts; it only proves that the texts have been preserved throughout the ages basically adequately.  Or, that is to say, it was proven to me personally.  I don’t presume to speak on behalf of anyone else, as I hope would be obvious; because re: the not-speaking-for-anyone-else thing, I suppose it’s important to note that in documenting my spiritual biography for the benefit of you, the reader, i.e., the person actually sitting in your living room, or study, or at the park on some crisp fall day, or on the subway, or wherever, meaning, the person actually seeing these words on the page (or screen) right now, -so it’s important for me to get across to you that I am in no way, shape, or form trying to convert you to Islam or get you to believe in anything whatsoever.  What I’m trying to clarify here is, this specific essay that I’m penning at this moment (and which you’re presumably later reading) certainly should not be misconstrued as an attempt at some sort of facile, insipid type of evangelism, which I personally detest.  I’m merely telling a story here, –my story, and how I came to believe certain things, why certain things were reasonable to me, et. al., and in so doing to likewise give as cursory of an explanation as is feasible, editing out innumerable details, tangential points, and probably relevant info so as to supply you only with the broad strokes that will allow you to better understand this process; there’s nothing more or less than that in my intention here, is what I’m getting at.  Hopefully you understand the point.

But anyways.  What finally convinced me that that the Islamic Sacred Texts had not only been preserved, but were in fact of preternatural origin is going to be a bit difficult to pin down, primarily because it wasn’t just one thing, to start with, and also because in all honesty a non-Arabic speaker is at quite the disadvantage considering that the Qu’ran puts forth a number of rather lofty challenges to the skeptical peruser, which in essence means there are these sort of ‘tests’ the Qu’ran gives you that you could theoretically use to disprove its claims of celestial authorship, but most of them were (or, are) directed toward the initial audience, e.g., 7th century Arab poets (and which, I mean, if you study the 7th century Arabs, about the only thing they had going for them was their phenomenal oratory skills).  So for example, the Qu’ran challenges the reader to “produce a surah (i.e., ‘chapter’) like it,” if you’re a skeptic, the implication of this ‘challenge’ being that the language is so splendorous and impregnated with such nuanced, multivalent meaning all the while being bestowed in this kind of inimitable Arabic poetic format that it renders any attempts at superseding it (style-and-content-wise) a well-nigh impossible feat.  But since presumably neither you nor I are 7th century Arab poets, there’s not much we can offer one way or another in terms of attempting to take up this challenge, which any honest man, no matter how devout, will have to concede.  Still though, or that said or whatever, the fact that passages like these ‘challenge’ verses (specifically referring to Q. 17:88, 2:23, 10:37-38, 11:13, and 52:33-34) even exist at all is something worth considering because, I mean, whether the challenge could hypothetically be met or taken up or not, seeing such a thing in a purported ‘Divine Revelation’ produced a few initial cognitive reactions in me personally, since, to start with, it strikes me as a rather un-human thing to put in a text if I’m being honest, because okay like, let’s say for example I wrote this awesome term paper in college (just as an apposite ‘for instance’), and I knew it was pretty great, still, no matter how fantastic it is, I don’t think it would even occur to me to add, say, at the bottom of the paper somewhere, “P.S., Mr. Professor:  This essay represents the pinnacle of human language.  You couldn’t even produce 3 sentences that match what I’ve composed here, and I dare you to even try.”  -Because I think we all know the professor wouldn’t sleep a wink until he defeated me or disproved said claim or whatever.  Plus I found it even more phantastical that, so much as I could tell perusing the history books, none of Sayyidina Muhammad’s contemporaneous enemies and / or naysayers took up this Qu’ranic challenge, marvelous poets though many of them were, -because, I mean, their oratory eloquence notwithstanding, they heard these ‘challenge’ verses recited in the streets of Mecca with what I assume to be some amount of regularity (since, as stated, the Qu’ran is a text meant more to be ‘recited’ aloud than read silently), and yet none of these aforementioned naysayers came forward in any (what we might consider totally understandable) egotistical rage so as to defend his own grandiloquent, linguistic honor, -a fact which I began to interpret as at least some sort of baseline proof that, not being an Arabic speaker myself, nevertheless the Arabic Qu’ranic manuscript must truly be as substantial and unparalleled as the text itself claims, otherwise we’d have some sort of evidence in the historical record of his enemies taking up the oft-repeated challenge.  But then, this is but one side of the coin because we also have to consider that what Muhammad –upon whom be peace!- is here presenting, if it is indeed from his own mind and not from the realm of Actus Purus, -so what he’d be according in these so-called ‘challenge’ verses is actually rather scientific, somewhat, and dare I say, rational, by which I mean that the hallmark of a good scientific theory is that, within the theory itself, the scientist or proponent of said theory in question gives you a way to prove him or her wrong, e.g., in effect stating that, ‘My premise is X, which I believe is true because of Y; however, if you can contrarily prove Z, then you will have disproven X, although, owing to Y, I find it highly unlikely / impossible that Z will ever be accomplished.  Hence, X is indeed true.’  -At which point, a myriad of rival scientists either 1) attempt Z, and fail [again, assuming X is a sound theory], or 2) immediately recognize Z is impossible and forego any attempts at proving it, and in either case X becomes the established scientific explanation for whatever it is that’s actually under discussion here.  It seems to me that most of the polytheist Meccans to whom Sayyiduna Muhammad was preaching in 7th century Arabia opted for option 2).  –And hence, X (in this case, X representing the claim that the Qu’ran’s Arabic prose is inimitable and beyond human ability to outdo) becomes the default position.  Aside from mimicking empirical science as we know it today though, it’s also a perfectly rational construct to posit that “X is true because the only other option is Z, and yet Z is untenable…” -because you, the 7th century Arab, could destroy or dismantle this claim, if it were indeed fallacious, either by pointing out that 1) there are other options beyond Z [which they didn’t, -point out other options, I mean], or 2) you could prove that Z is, in fact, quite tenable [which they also didn’t do].   The point of all this being that, even with my inability to comprehend Arabic during the inceptive part of my study of Qu’ran being taken into account, it still struck me as rather implausible that an illiterate man (i.e., Muhammad –upon whom be peace!) would challenge in so brazen a manner an entire culture of orators that prided themselves on their poetic compositions, and that he would do so in a way that is more or less in accord with sound logical formulae.  The attitude of the ‘Author’ of the Qu’ran, to put it tersely, quite simply did not seem to me to be putting forth claims that could be said to be representative of thinking that is in accord with any typical human thought patterns; ‘man’ simply does not cogitate in this manner, -and not just any man, mind you, but, for all intents and purposes, an uneducated man from so primitive and isolated a society as what we’d find in 7th century Mecca.

 

VI.  AN HONEST MAN

A final reflection in service of the general theme re: what convinced me that Islam was the truth with a capital ‘T,’ –which I confer upon the reader hoping that said reader realizes that for every singular piece of evidence I’m offering there are probably a dozen more that I’m omitting for the sake of time and space, -and so another bit of historical data that I came across in the Islamic texts that impressed greatly upon me requires us to now or henceforth or what have you, -so it requires us to set aside the Qu’ran for a moment and travel back into the hadith literature, wherein we find a rather peculiar story that is recounted not only in the earliest works of seera (that is, Prophetic biography, -which is a separate science from hadith verification), but is also mass transmitted with numerous chains (isnād) in what is considered by academicians (both of the faith and not) to be the most reliable collection of hadith, i.e., Sahih-Al-Bukhari, and also referenced in the earliest complete work of hadith, here referring to Imam Malik’s Muwatta, the general gist of the story being just so:  The Holy Apostle Muhammad –upon whom be peace!- probably some time in 630 A.D., had sent a delegation of his followers to Pope Benjamin the 1st of Alexandria (in Egypt), inviting him to become Muslim, whereupon the latter was of course reticent, but nevertheless he (=meaning Pope Benjamin) responded with what could be described as a magnanimous refusal, and so to demonstrate that he had no ill will toward Sayyiduna Muhammad, or that there was no disrespect intended by his decision to refrain from accepting Islam or whatever, so he sent a gift of two sisters (presumably slave girls, though Islamic texts are somewhat ambiguous regarding their status), as well as some silk, a donkey, and a mule.  Of the two women, one was the exceedingly beautiful Lady Maria, said in some accounts to be a descendant of Byzantine royalty, who, after spending considerable time with the Apostle’s disciples on the arduous journey from northern Egypt to Medinat Al-Munawarra (in Arabia), -and so being with them for so long a time and witnessing their sublime comportment and faith, she was soon convinced to become Muslim herself.  According to accounts narrated primarily by Ibn Abbas, the uncle of Sayyidina Muhammad, and by Tabari, an early scholar of Prophetic biography, the Lady Maria was immediately freed from slavery upon arrival in Medinat Al-Munawarra and henceforth agreed to a betrothal with the Apostle; while according to other reports she was considered an ‘Umm Al-Walad’ –which is an archaic status in ancient Arabian society that is somewhat above that of a slave girl but somewhat below that of a free wife, and as for those who hold to the latter view, they maintain that she was only fully freed in Sayyidina Muhammad’s final will and testament, -at any rate though we need not concern ourselves with such details since her actual status cannot be deciphered with any real confidence owing to conflicting historical reports on the matter. All that can be deduced with certainty is that she became Muslim, and remained confidently so well after the earthly passing of the Apostle –upon whom be peace!- and so by all accounts the arrangement between the two of them, whatever it may or may not have been, can be considered to have been a happy one with which the lady herself was well content insomuch as the context and culture of the time is concerned.  At any rate, to move the story along, or get to the point or what have you, after some time Lady Maria bore Sayydina Muhammad a son, i.e., an heir, which no doubt delighted him as well as the whole of his followers, this owing to the fact that his former sons by his previous wife, the Lady Khadijah –of whom Sayyidina Muhammad was now long since widowed, and so his sons by Khadijah had all passed away in infancy; yet now, here was a new son borne by another, and in the more tolerable climate of the Arabian city of Medina, -an oasis like no other on the continent, and so it was hoped that this new primogeniture would grow hardy and hale.  The child was named Ibrahim and did in fact outlive his priors, making it to nearly two years of age before he, like those unfortunate ones before him, also became sick, perhaps with a fever peculiar to that specific clime, and eventually also passed away.  The Prophet –upon whom be peace!- did grieve, albeit moderately (as was his wont), and they buried the child in what eventually came to be known as Jannatul Baqi, or, “Garden of the Boxthorns” –a formerly Jewish graveyard adjacent to a Medinan neighborhood that has not survived to the modern era (meaning, the neighborhood.  The graveyard itself still exists, though all of its shrines and ḍarîḥs were destroyed by Salafists in 1925/6 A.D, -just for your reference, or… so on).  But on this same day, which astronomers have since deduced by calculation was the 7th of January, 632 C.E., some time in the early morning, there was a solar eclipse which Sayyiduna Muhammad’s disciples naturally discussed with much excitement and wonder among themselves, eventually settling on an affirmation that this aforementioned eclipse was indeed a miraculous event, and so they’d deliberated over it at such length that eventually a rumor spread hither and yon implying that the sky had darkened out of sadness for the death of little Ibrahim, -that is, Muhammad’s infant son that had recently passed.  This canard eventually reached the Apostle himself and, according to every known report of this story in the Islamic sacred texts, we find nothing from him but a firm denial of his own disciple’s synodic assumptions, esp. considering that he gathered the lot of them and declaimed something to the effect of, “The sun and the moon are but signs of God, and they eclipse for neither the birth nor death of any man.  On beholding an eclipse, therefore, call God to mind and turn to Him in prayer.

So.  This is the mutawatir, or mass transmitted historical report regarding the death of one of the beloved sons of the Apostle.  As to why it affected me so, I think it only fair to admit that, as best I recall, my first reaction upon reading this fascinating account was something akin to disappointment; i.e., I considered the whole episode rather anti-climactic, esp. considering that I was, at the time I’d happened upon the aforementioned anecdote, -so I was quite well on my way toward thinking that perhaps Islam was indeed the truth; hence I was expecting to read that the Apostle Muhammad confirmed this wondrous miracle that could, of course, -in my mind, at least- by no means be considered a mere coincidence.  And yet, my desires or thoughts as to how the story should end bore no relevance; his response was the exact opposite of what I, -and I assume even his contemporaneous disciples- had hoped for.  His answer to their proclamations seemed so… terrene, to put it bluntly.  Mundane… or, so… rational (as opposed to say, esoteric, or recherché).  At any rate, I pondered on the story for many, many moons (if you’ll pardon the probably-inappropriate pun), and so, the more I reflected, the more it perturbed me.  I mean I really just couldn’t get the yarn out of my head; I continued reflecting, considering, cogitating, et. al., until one evening I finally had some sort of epiphanic insight into the whole point of the story; chiefly I realized that it was a striking testament to the veracity, i.e., the sheer honesty of Sayyidina Muhammad –upon whom be peace!   After all, I thought, it would have been the perfect opportunity for a charlatan, -if indeed a charlatan is what he was- to take advantage of a rather propitious happening; to confirm the theories and hopes of his more obsequious followers, -followers that were no doubt prone to see miracles and signs in everything (as is so often the case with the faithful, I will admit); to tie them ever more conscientiously to his person, to make them all the more amenable to his commands and whims, and yet this he quite succinctly refused to do for no other reason that I could decipher save that it wasn’t in accord with the truth of the matter.  In short: he was simply being honest.  Honest at a moment when to be dishonest would have been of much more personal benefit since, as a Prophet, -whether a true one or false one-, as a Prophet it is assumed that his goal is to attract followers by any means at his disposal, and yet here, when the perfect opportunity arises for him to do just that, he refrains only because to say other than what he is recorded to have said would not be in accord with reality –a sincerity of action and speech that we would only expect to see in the doings of a man who believed fully in his own mission, and who likewise considered that part of this selfsame mission was to always speak the truth, even if that truth be injurious to one’s own aims.  Furthermore, I came to believe that his response showed a rather lucid mental clarity since, just as one might presume that a liar would take advantage of such a situation, one should then similarly conclude that a deluded or insane man, -that is, a man who believed by reason of psychosis or hebephrenia, -one should likewise conclude that he would himself be every bit as credulous as his disciples at that moment, meaning in essence that, if he believed in his own Prophethood through little more than some type of delirious folly, then there would be no earthly reason for him to deny that the eclipse here under discussion was indeed a miracle; he would believe it just as readily as his followers had.  Point being: as far as yours truly was concerned, and after considerable ratiocination on certain facts up to and including the story just highlighted above^ (i.e., the story about the eclipse and all), I found it well nigh impossible to locate any remaining refuge for the last vestige of my own skepticism:  I had finally become, after many months of reflection on the above mentioned facts and anecdotes (and many others as well that, as stated, I’m leaving out in order to compact this otherwise lengthy narrative) –so I had finally become a confirmed and committed Muslim believer.

 

VII.  EXPERIENCES / MUSINGS ‘AS’ A MUSLIM

Although to be fair, the term ‘believer’ here is somewhat problematic because, to the English-speaking world, to be a believer in something implies a state of non-fluctuation; one either believes in a thing or doesn’t.  This isn’t quite right in Islamic thought, as the Arabic word for ‘belief,’ eeman, is something that, while presumably always extant within one’s rūḥ, or soul, nevertheless waxes and wanes.  Thus it is that, hypothetically speaking, at one point in time an individual may have a very immense volume of eeman, or faith, in the stores of their breast -they may be right certain of the veracity of Islam and optimistic regarding their standing with God, whereas at other times this same individual may have a ‘drained spiritual battery,’ to use somewhat of a crude metaphor, and in such a state they may examine themselves and find passing doubts, despair, confusion as to their rank with the Divine, which will undoubtedly reflect in the person’s actions, namely they will be more concerned with worldly affairs, distracted, more prone to sinning, &c. &c., and I was, of course, no different.  In those initial months and even years after my purported ‘true conversion,’ -that is, after I’d learned enough about the faith to actually believe in it and begin practicing it, I felt so certain that I’d found the truth that I imagined in my zealotry that I could leap mountains and accomplish all things, for God was on my side.  I most probably (and foolishly) believed somewhere deep down in my subconscious self that I had done God some great favor by accepting His religion, and that by doing Him this favor, He would pay me back in kind and reward me with a life of prosperity; -such naivety, while obviously facile, nevertheless did give me a degree of confidence, and it also helped me ignore any and all naysayers in my vicinity who may have found my sudden religiosity not just curious, but in many cases, demonstrably misguided.  My former Atheist and Agnostic colleagues -I soon discovered- were in fact not Atheist or Agnostic for any sound, rational reason (as they had so often claimed), rather it just so happened that reason coincidentally confirmed their desires; they had, as best I could intuit, long wished to free themselves from the shame and moral shackles of their Christian upbringings, and found the excuse they needed in Atheist / Agnostic critiques of Christianity and Christian scriptures.  So it was in the foolhardiness of a youthful faith that I assumed that, were I to present them with the rational arguments I’d discovered for believing in Islam that they would be rapt, and would barely be able to constrain themselves from becoming Muslim themselves; yet of course the truth was, as a much older and wiser ‘me’ now knows, quite the opposite.  The better and more precise my arguments were in defense of my religious choices, the more enraged they became, until a great many of them quit speaking to me altogether, -but I don’t see a purpose in going too far in psychoanalyzation on this point I suppose; I’ll just let the reader draw his or her own conclusions, as far as that’s concerned.

As for my Christian family and few remaining Christian friends, I was surprised to discover that, whereas they were content to remain silent or relatively insouciant with regard to my lengthy sojourn into Agnosticism and moral debauchery, -still, when it came to a true embrace and daily practice of Islam, they were much less equable, -and this, despite the fact that Islam makes room for Christ, allowing that he is God’s true Prophet and demands that all faithful believers in the Qu’ran declare that Jesus was indeed the prophesied Jewish Messiah.  It was only later that I would realize that their hostility was owing to the fact that their identity was much more ‘American,’ and even ‘Southern American’ (and, if I’m being honest, ‘White’) than it was ‘Christian,’ and that Agnosticism, while supposedly being a belief which doomed me to hell in their eyes, even so, it was still ‘American’ and still ‘White,’ –it had no hint of anything exotic or, to be perfectly frank, ‘non-white.’  In essence, the years that followed my ‘true conversion’ taught me that great swaths of humanity pretend to be one thing while in fact they are another; they say they are Atheists or Agnostics because, they claim, it is rational and because they consimilarly desire ever so ardently to be free from a slavish obedience to a tyrannical God (this is how many of them categorize and conceptualize religion); yet in fact they’ve merely chained themselves to their own lusts and become slaves to their whims and desires in the name of the ‘freedom’ and ‘humble rationalism’ of the Atheism or Agnosticism that they profess.  On the other end of the spectrum there are those who profess to be Christian in the name of seeking truth and hoping to please God; yet in reality if it could be objectively demonstrated to such claimants that God lies elsewhere, as in, beyond the limits of American Christianity, they would stubbornly remain Christian owing to the fact that what they really are is American; -white Americans, to be specific, and not Christian, despite their claims to the contrary.  At the heart of the matter, I learned, is not what one professes to be, but, in the words of Christ; ‘Where a man’s treasure is, there his heart is also,’ (Matt. 6:21).  As for myself, if I may offer one small point of self-adulation in service of a broader theme:  I’ve always held that my own treasure was always in careful consideration of claims, as well as vigilant observation of my own experiences, -to seek truth in both realms (experiential and rational), come what may, and wherever such winds may direct my sails: so be it.  I only now see that it was exactly this mode of thinking that made me unusual or anomalous as when compared to many of my peers, as it is only the truly unusual individuals –who are rare- and it is only these that will find the truth –any truth- and remain with it, be it religious or otherwise (indeed, the truth will forever remain obscured to those who merely pretend to be unusual by means of some picayune outward display or claim), -for the real truth seekers adhere to truth for its own sake.  To this end: recall that when I was Agnostic, while I was thrilled to be able to live out my wildest desires and fantasies, even so, I only allowed myself to devolve into depravity after I had verified that the complaints that my Atheist friends had regarding the Bible were reasonable and accurate; not a moment before.  On the other hand, once a religion was presented to me that 1) had strong rational arguments for itself, and 2) answered all of the spiritual questions that my previous experiences had made to accrete within me, I immediately abandoned my bygone Agnosticism for good.    Such was not the case for any of my former comrades because, as I would soon learn all too well, humanity remains comprised of those that ask to see the sun, but all the while keep their eyes tightly closed with a disdainful smirk upon their lips; -a million suns wouldn’t help them.

Of course, none of this is to say that I was the perfect Muslim or that I was suddenly transformed into some wise sage immediately upon my conversion; I don’t want to give such an impression mainly because it would be embarrassingly false.  I should admit my failings so that the reader who may otherwise be unacquainted with the process of individual spiritual development can obtain some idea of how this whole thing works, which is, contrary to what most ancient hagiographies would have one believe, very much not a straight line from darkness to light, but rather, a circuitous route full of backtracking, reconsidering, doubt, confusion, innumerable mistakes, pitfalls, et. al.  So, take for example how I responded to the Muslim community’s response to me, in that, initially the coreligionists that I’d met at the local Mosque (which was abysmally small; they met in a rented apartment for Friday and evening prayers) in many cases viewed me as but a trinket or bibelot by which their own weak faith was to be confirmed; -not only an American convert, but a white American!  Such is the dream of many colonized minds, to the degree that I lost count of how many times I was asked to recount my conversion story (note that they were always interested in the ‘how,’ never the ‘why,’ –the former speaks to the auditor’s desire for confirmation, whereas the latter, the ‘why,’ is a rigorous investigation of the faith itself; much less interesting to them, apparently); -it wasn’t long before I was asked (and agreed) to speak at the local college, and even give the Friday sermons at the Mosque!  -All the while, behind closed doors, I was sinning in the extreme, and had a pathetic paucity of religious knowledge.  Now, this was not because I didn’t believe in Islam; I most certainly did, but rather it was because I had yet to learn that the most important component for spiritual success is the ego’s death (or, at least its significant diminution); -a fact that most Muslims of today have forgotten or, if not forgotten, nevertheless they haven’t made such Islamic teachings paramount.

The reason for this tragic reality, if I can be forgiven for putting it so bluntly and delving into a tangential sectarian matter for a moment, is the recent proliferation of Salafist thought throughout the Muslim world, -Salafism (so-called) being a roughly 200-year-old offshoot from the Hanbali school of Islamic Law which one would not be remiss in classifying as ‘West-o-phobic’ (=meaning, Salafism, not Hanbalism per se) to such a degree that many mainstays of traditional Islam are disregarded by these purported Salafists as reprehensible heresies, -these aspersions are owing to these more traditional action’s and belief’s (supposed) imitation of Western traditions, such as the use of the misbaḥ / tasbīḥ, which the Salafists equate with the Roman Catholic use of the rosary, or the celebration of the Mawlid (birthday of the Prophet), which they equate with Christmas, and many more examples that could be cited ad nauseum, all of which (=meaning, the Salafist’s protests of such practices) are equally fallacious, considering that much of what they abjure has some basis in Islamic Sacred Texts that can’t be erased by their denials, no matter how vehement.  But of course, the Salafist goal in this regard isn’t simply to rid the Muslim world of what they (wrongly) perceive to be heterodoxy, but in fact to undermine traditional, mystical Islam (which typically takes the form of organized tariqas or Sufi orders, -though not always) and divorce the lay-worshipper from his or her fealty to the Lovers of God; -the Gnostics, and refocus such devotion toward the ‘fatwas’ of their own Rabbinical ‘shaykhs’ instead.  The ultimate result of this ‘game’ of course is the amplification of a form of ‘Islam’ that is little more than an emperor with no clothes, a hard shell with no internal reality, the mere ossature of a religion that produces hordes of lay worshippers full to the brim of spiritual diseases, for they have lost all ethereal connection to the Holy Apostle Muhammad –upon whom be peace!- and walk about filled with their own inflated egos rather than the penetrating consciousness to which authentic Islam calls us; these outward, exoteric ‘Muslims’ having long ago reduced Islam to a mere set of rules in their minds, rules which they put above common sense and even, at times, their own humanity.   What’s worse is that the average Muslim –and this is especially true of worshippers in the West-  is likely indoctrinated with Salafist thought without even recognizing it or realizing this fact, and as such their ‘Islamic’ institutions produce naught but rotten spiritual fruit, a league of outwardly Muslim, but inwardly void automatons who don’t know what it is to truly love, to feel the ecstasy of worship, to be internally rectified and purified at the hands of a true wali’Allah (or, saint), -indeed, they even deny that such wondrous individuals exist, now re-defining a wali to that of being merely a ‘good Muslim,’ rather than a luminous being who has trod the arduous path of internal rectification such that he (or she) sees naught but God with every gaze, and further has the ability to enlighten the soul of his (or her) pupils with but a du’a, a litany they proscribe, or, in some cases, a mere glance.  This pitiful indoctrination has occurred chiefly because of a number of factors, not the least of which being that the Salafists –like all sectarian zealots- work tirelessly to promote their ‘brand,’ setting up institutions, Mosques, printing presses, television studios, et. al., all of it being well-funded by the obscene amounts of petrol dollars extravagantly available in Gulf-Arab countries (where Salafism originated), such that one can scarcely purchase any book or watch any religious-themed television program in the Arab / Muslim world except that it is from a Salafist organization or skewed toward their particular views and interpretations.  This has resulted in the masses of lay Muslims being duped into believing that Salafism is, in fact, the only acceptable form of Islam, full stop, and that it has always been thus, when the reality is quite the opposite.  So it is that many Muslims claim to be ‘unaffiliated’ –when the reality is they are completely and totally Salafist without knowing it, simply because this particular form of Islam is what has become the most common, causing them (=the lay Muslim) to assume, wrongly, that the aberrant ‘West-o-phobic’ preaching and teaching that they see on television, on the internet, and written about in books is in fact not aberrant, but rather, completely normal in their minds, and thus represents Islam as it is.

For many years –nearly a decade- after my conversion to Islam, I was similarly deluded; -I believed I was one such ‘unaffiliated’ Muslim, when in actuality I had become a Salafist unawares, and without ever using the term, simply because their materials were all that was available to me when I initially began my study of the faith.  Eventually (this ‘eventually’ being several years after my ‘true conversion’), by the grace of God, a non-Salafi shaykh was hired at our local Mosque, a sayyid –meaning, a descendant of the Holy Apostle Muhammad;- he was a deeply pious man who inspired me to increase in my dhikr (recitation of mantras / litanies, -a mandatory practice in many Sufi orders), and after heeding his advice, I began noticing the internal change that was occurring within my very soul and which is of such a celestial and delightful nature that it would be impossible to put into words, which could be put another, more succinct and to-the-point way, namely: I finally came to realize that everything I had been taught about Islam up to that point was decidedly incorrect; I had been sold a defective product.  I came to realize after those several passing years that Islam was more than mere ritual and Rabbinical martinetism, -it was rather a deeply spiritual movement that puts one upon the path of internal perfection and directs us toward obtaining direct experience of God (i.e., ‘dhawq’ –or ‘ecstatic tasting’ {of the Divine} in Arabic), -which subsequently results in an insufflation of Pure Love, as well as the serenity, peace, and tranquility that all human beings long for and yet so rarely find.

To sort of contract this part of the story and decoct it down to its most vital essence (since I have prattled on for too long already), let’s put it that after several spiritual and sublunary ups and downs, I came to realize the necessity of embracing the spiritual practices of Sufism (i.e., Islamic mysticism) in addition to normative Islamic practices (such as the 5 daily prayers, fasting in Ramadan, so on and so forth), -these spiritual (Or, “Sufi”) practices chiefly consisting of the consistent recitation of certain litanies and benedictions upon the Prophet –upon whom be peace!- mornings and evenings, and obtaining / receiving spiritual benefit and illumination by the steadfast adherence thereof.

 

VIII.  GOTTA END SOMEWHERE

I could of course go on, mentioning the indelible peace I’ve found, the new breath of religiosity, love, compassion, and contentment, the nearness to God and spiritual insights I’ve gained, but that is perhaps better left to another composition for some later date.  Suffice it to say that despite the seemingly anfractuous route upon which I was guided, I can nevertheless say with certainty that I was guided.   Many of my spiritual discoveries –or, perhaps we should call them ‘unveilings’- if these unveilings are viewed from one perspective, they seem almost happenstance or whimsical.  But still, even so, or what have you, -and as with most things, if you’re able to take a more ‘kaleidoscopic view’, and look at the same story from a different viewpoint or with a different lens, you’ll no doubt see that the force of destiny, or some sort of guiding hand, was simultaneously at play.  This paradoxical fact can perhaps be better summed up with the words of the irreproachable nephew of the Holy Apostle Muhammad –upon whom be peace!- -here referring to Ali ibn Abu Talib who once said, upon being asked how it could possibly be true that God guided human beings in one respect, and yet in another respect, a great many events seem dependent upon our own actions and moral decisions, -and so Ali responded to the querist by saying, “Raise one leg,” –to which the inquirer did with ease.  Thereupon Ali –May God ennoble him!- said, “That is your free will.  And now, keeping that foot raised, lift your other leg!”  -The man was naturally unable to do this.  So it was that Ali smiled, perhaps knowingly, and said, “…and that is Divine Destiny!

Such has been with my own journey.

I end my record at this juncture with the emphatic declaration that if there is any good in what I have recounted above, then it is certainly and without any doubt owing to God.

Only the mistakes are mine.

 

 

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Paul of Tarsus: A Transmutation of the Anti-Christ. Part IV.

Arabic-Calligraphy-Islamic-Words-1

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

 

“O God,
send prayers upon the light of lights,
the secret of secrets,
the antidote for ailments,
the key to the door of ease,
-our master, Muhammad, the Chosen One-
and upon his pure family
and choice companions,
by the number of God’s blessings and favors.”
Amen.

 

Continued from Part III.

 

REVIEW:

-Now I know it’s been quite some time since I’ve (re)visited this series -roughly a month and a half by my count-, so, in consideration of this fact, a few quick reminders / points of audit:

The first entry (which can be found here) established that there is, per Islamic hermeneutics, a “living” anti-Christ figure (called Ad-Dajjāl, in Arabic), who has the ability to ‘spiritually colonize’ individuals, and more or less “possess” them, either fully or partially.

The second entry (found here) was the longest thus far, and a number of issues were addressed therein.  Firstly, it was demonstrated that the only semi-acceptable sources for the historical Paul of Tarsus are the 6 agreed upon Pauline Epistles (that is, Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, and 1st Thessalonians), -with the entirety of the rest of the Biblical canon likely being pseudographical and the Book of Acts specifically being basically useless as a historical document.  Also covered were the 6 signs of a “Dajjālic” transmutation (a brief rundown being:  –1.  The transmuted individuals are not outwardly enemies of their respective Prophets, but rather appear to be among their followers and / or advocates, –2.  They perform miracles, -but these miracles misguide rather than guide, –3. They may or may not be fully “colonized,” -and, if only “partially colonized,” they may at times seem to be acting of their own accord, -they could even conceivably appear to be what we might call “righteous,” while at other times they are acting intently upon their desire to beguile the immediate followers / disciples of the Prophet of their age, –4.  They sometimes speak in obscure, ambiguous ways, –5.  They are occasionally compelled to do certain actions against their will,  and –6.  They may sometimes teach peaceful, beautiful or otherwise hopeful things, -but this is almost always in service of a greater evil / harm, overall).  We also examined Paul’s life before his conversion to Christianity, and found it to be disturbingly unsympathetic and quite unusual when compared to most extant hagiographies.

The third and last entry to date (found here) was much shorter than Part II; -there we gave a brief overview of the history of Paul & the ‘true disciples’ of Jesus according to Christians, and then explained why this / their narrative is unhistorical; i.e. little more than pious fiction.  We concluded by finally touching upon Paul’s doctrines, establishing that on at least one occasion he lied about the teachings of Jesus (عليه السلام), -and set about proving this claim from the historical record.

Naturally, the above^ is quite cursory, with only the content / summary being mentioned here.  For more detailed information (including a lucid defense of these positions), I’d suggest actually reading the prior installments in their totality, if you haven’t already.

Moving forward, I hope to discuss Paul’s real, unalloyed & historical relationship with the actual disciples of Christ, proving that it was strained at best, and outwardly contentious / antagonistic at worst (thus dispelling the Christian heterodox fiction that Paul was “just another disciple”).

 

PAUL, PETER, & THE APOSTLES IN GENERAL:  BITTER ENEMIES.

And so then… getting right to it…

…In researching the life of Paul, one will inevitably brush up against the “rock upon which” Jesus supposedly built his “Church” (according to the Paul-influenced “Jewish” gospel of Matthew, at least), -here referring to Saint Peter (as the Christians refer to him), -Peter being the individual who, per the synoptics, was Jesus’ first disciple.  According to the (untrustworthy) Book of Acts and the pseudographical epistles that follow it, Peter was Paul’s staunchest ally, the mediator between his (=Paul’s) supposed “mission to the Gentiles” and Peter / James’ “mission to the circumcised” (i.e., mission to the Jews).  To clarify this important distinction: In general, both the pseudographical NT literature and the letters of Paul agree upon the point that Paul’s mission -as he saw it- was chiefly concerned with converting non-Jews to Christianity, whilst the “Jamesian” brand of Christianity (named after the disciple, James the Just) was specifically targeted to Jews.  According to later Christian heterodoxy (i.e., Pauline Christianity), it was Peter who served as a “middle man” between the two movements, -though the facticity of this is unverifiable and, as we shall see, unlikely.  Generally speaking though, what you need to understand going forward is this: if Paul ever got into trouble with Jews, Jewish Christians, or James the Apostle specifically (as happened quite often in the NT narratives), then Peter habitually comes to the rescue (again, this is only according to Acts and / or the pro-Paul pseudographical epistles).

Now, while it *may be* true that Peter was Jesus’ first disciple (the synoptics as well as Acts seem to agree on this point), and furthermore, while Peter did likely try to convert the Jews to the belief that Jesus was their expected Messiah, -and so while these two facts seem to have some basis in history, still, virtually everything else about “Saint Peter” (whose actual Hebrew name was Cephas) is shrouded in mystery.  Bart Ehrman writes in “Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene:  The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend,” the following:

 

It is much to be regretted that we don’t have any information about what the historical Peter himself might have actually preached and taught during his missionary activities ‘among the circumcised.’  …we have a number of writings that allegedly come from Peter’s own hand…but there are good reasons to suspect that none of these works were actually penned by Peter himself, -especially given the circumstance that our earlier traditions indicate that he was an illiterate, Aramaic speaking peasant who had not been trained to read, let alone engage in Greek composition.”  [1]

 

Later, when discussing the fact that Acts is a pro-Pauline, sectarian screed (as opposed to a history textbook), Ehrman writes:

 

…when Peter preaches to a non-Jewish audience (in the Book of Acts)his message is similar (to Paul’s)Jesus had been empowered by God to do miraculous deeds, but the Jewish people rejected him and had him killed… But God nonetheless raised him from the dead… Everyone, both Jew and Gentile, needs to repent and receive the forgiveness that comes in his name… Peter, in other words, is the first spokesperson in this narrative for the message that the Book of Acts wants to convey, a message that is rooted in the theological views (of the Pauline author)…” [2], [3](Bold emphasis mine).

 

The point here being that, from a historical perspective, we actually have no earthly idea what Peter (or any other actual apostle of Jesus) truly taught (-at least, we can’t deduce such a thing from any of their writings, since no legitimate, authentic documents written by any of the disciples survive.  -We can, however, conclude that they were all Jewish Christians that kept the Halacha, the Jewish Law, based on certain historical realities and clues from Paul’s letters and other extra-Biblical documents).  The only item we have that even pretends at making an attempt of assembling a narrative-type history about the disciples is the pro-Pauline book of Acts, which, unfortunately, erroneously seeks to paint a picture of a harmonious and singular doctrine existing between Paul and Jesus’ apostles.  As proven ad-nauseum in Part II of this series however, Acts is simply an example of one of Paul’s students attempting to re-write history.  It can’t be relied upon to tell us anything.  In further service of this point, consider the following:

 

…one of the key figures of the Book of Acts is the apostle Paul, and it is possible to compare what Paul says (in his verified epistles) about his relationship with Peter with what Acts says about Paul’s relationship with Peter.  Look carefully at the two accounts and you’ll find important differences.  When did Peter and the other disciples meet Paul?  Right after Paul’s conversion in Damascus, as in Acts, or years later, as Paul insists?  (Compare:  Acts 9:26-29, with Galatians 1:16-18).  Did Peter start the mission to Gentiles, as in Acts, or did he restrict his mission to the Jews while Paul was the missionary to the Gentiles, as in Paul’s own letters (Acts 10-11, Gal. 1-2)?  Did Peter agree with Paul’s understanding that Gentiles should not be urged to keep the Jewish Law, as in Acts, or did he disagree, as according to Paul (Acts 15:6-11, Gal. 2:11-15)?” [4]  (Bold emphasis mine).

 

From the above citations we can cull a few points of relative significance, these chiefly being that, 1) again, we don’t know much about Peter, historically speaking, 2) what is presented about him in Acts is unreliable, and contradicts Paul’s own accounts, and 3) in stark contrast to the counterfeit history presented in Acts, in all likelihood Peter believed in Jewish Law, preached exclusively to Jews, preferred the company of Jews (see Gal. chapter 2), and was himself a Jewish Christian (at least, insomuch as we can gather from Paul’s actual writings).

Of course, Peter’s “Jewishness” is no surprise to any historian even vaguely familiar with the situation in 1st century Palestine.  As Dr. Barrie Wilson writes:

 

In light of well-founded fears over Hellenistic [5] assimilation and annihilation, no responsible Jewish leader of the time would have dared suggest abandoning the Torah. That would have been a suicidal message for any Jewish community and that was not Jesus’ position.” [6].

 

In other words, it’s little surprise that Peter, being an actual disciple of Jesus while he was alive (unlike Paul), believed 100% in the Jewish Law, kept it himself, and hence preferred the company of Jews -and this in imitation of his beloved teacher, Prophet, and Messiah, -Jesus himself.  The Hellenized “Jesus” that Paul creates, by contrast, is incongruous with history, incongruous with 1st century Jews, up to and including the Jewish Christians of Paul’s day, and ultimately incongruous with the disciples themselves.  Whenever and wherever the NT canon contradicts this fact, it will always be in pseudographical forgeries, or in unreliable, theology-driven, un-historical texts, such as Acts, or in the Paul-influenced gospels.

So the point is that what we’re attempting to really drive home here is this:  Nothing, except perhaps the 6 epistles that are agreed upon in academia as being actually authored by Paul, can be considered or used as an actual historical reference to anything having to do with him (=Paul) and his relationship(s) with others.  From what can be deduced from the first two chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians, and a few scant references in 1 Corinthians and 1st Thessalonians, it appears that while Peter and Paul did know each other and even briefly interacted, nevertheless they weren’t friends, despite what most of the NT canon and church lore would have us believe.  Whatever camaraderie that may have existed between the two was short lived, if it was ever even a reality at all.  Eventually Peter, James (and John) likely came to loathe Paul (see Gal. 2:9, where Paul calls these individuals those “who seemed to be pillars,” and earlier, “those who were reputed to be something” and “those who were of repute,” –clearly mocking, and adding that “they added nothing to me,” -Gal. 2:6, and: “what they were makes no difference to me.” -Gal 2:6, -i.e., he was obviously being derisive, esp. when these excerpts are read in the context of the Epistle to the Galatians as a whole.  In other words, he wasn’t cordial with the disciples, and certainly not deferential.  At best we could say that he saw them as a challenge to his authority; at worst, he loathed them, and vice versa).  It should also be remembered that Paul didn’t rush to greet the disciples upon his alleged “conversion to Christ,” but rather, suspiciously avoided them from the outset and continued to do so for most of his life -and this is according to his own accounts (see: Gal. 1:15-19).  He does indicate that he spent some time with Peter (Gal. 1:18-19), -but the context and content of the meeting is not clarified.  Paul likewise claims a few verses later that the disciples heard a report -presumably secondhand, and from afar- of his initial conversion (he doesn’t say when their hearing of his conversion occurred but we may presume that it was shortly after it happened) and that they subsequently “praised God because of me,” (Gal 1:23-24), -but virtually everything else he recounts in his verified writings re: his interaction(s) with the true disciples of Christ is antagonistic.  We don’t know what he said to Peter during their 15-day meeting previously referenced in Gal. chapter 1, -whether he disclosed his teachings fully and was approved by Peter, or whether he held back, or sugar-coated his anti-Mosaic Law rhetoric, or worded things ambiguously / obscurely, -or whether the meeting ended on a good note or a bad one.  We only know they met, briefly.

Their next meeting (14 years later) was, Paul claims, “in response to revelation,” -and so as to present “to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles,” (Gal 2:1-2).  Again, the details of this second meeting are likewise scant.  Apparently there was some argument over whether Paul’s Roman disciple and amanuensis, Titus, should follow Jewish Law and be circumcised (Gal. 2:3).  Whatever the case, Titus ended up leaving Jerusalem with his mentor (Paul) every bit as “uncut” as the day he was born, to use a euphemism.  -How the actual argument that occurred between the disciples and Paul went that day, what they discussed, or how things really ended is anyone’s guess.  History has only furnished us with Paul’s account(s), which are found extremely wanting.  Did he really go to Jerusalem solely as a result of some purported “revelation?” -Or was he also called there by irate Jewish Christians / the disciples, seeking to uncover what, exactly, he had been teaching?  Perhaps news had finally reached the disciples from the ultima thules of the Roman empire (i.e., the outskirts where Paul habituated) and they’d finally received clear and undeniable reports of his anti-Halacha sophistry.  But, taking Paul’s claim at face value: if it was “by revelation” as he attests, then what kind of revelation?  Was it a dream?  A voice?  -Or is this claim of Paul’s that he had actively sought a meeting with Jesus’ true disciples after the reverie compelled him to do so simply something that he made up in his letter to the Galatians so as to defend himself from a complaint which might have been disseminating among his followers there and which posited that, unlike Peter and / or James, he (=Paul) wasn’t a true disciple?  Was this claim of an “inspired meeting” merely some sort of attempt to tie himself to the followers of the men that knew Jesus during his lifetime, so as to quell concerns rising among his own converts regarding his apparent lack of a relationship (and lack of doctrinal harmony) with the disciples?  As if to say, “No, you’ve all got it wrong!  The disciples know about me and what I teach!  For proof I submit the following:  I met with them not once, but twice!”  (And yet suspiciously providing no more details than that)?  -Sadly, we’ll never know the truth of what happened at these two meetings, nor the real reasons behind them.  We only know that, according to Paul, they happened, one of them “by revelation” according to his claim, and that the 2nd of the two meetings involved some sort of argument about Halacha, -Jewish Law.  That’s all that can be ascertained with any degree of certainty.

Aside from these two encounters, the first of which is inconclusive owing to the paucity of detail provided by Paul, and the latter of which is, while still unclear, seemingly more hostile than the first, -and so, aside from these two questionable encounters, Paul’s general modus operandi was to stay as far away from the disciples of Christ as was humanly possible, remaining in more “Gentile” territory (for reasons that will be obvious going forward, if they aren’t already).  By and by Paul would gain an increasing number of exclusively Roman followers -all of whom were likely ignorant of the finer points Judaism, and so the result of this is that the Jewish Christians and, occasionally, the disciples themselves, probably came to know of Paul’s teachings (so it would seem, at least), and his congregations were thenceforth and immediately infiltrated by those sympathetic to the disciples’ more ‘Jewish’ brand of Christianity (if not by the actual disciples themselves who, though confined to Jerusalem owing to their lack of Roman citizenship [unlike Paul, who was a Roman citizen according to the Book of Acts.  See: Acts 16:37-38Acts 22:25-28] could nevertheless still send letters or plenipotentiaries or both) and so, as a result, some of Paul’s own congregants are subsequently turned against him, -meaning even his own followers become his enemies [7].  He bemoans the schismatic reality of his congregations in 1 Corinthians 1:12, when, while referring to the dissension that has occurred among his converted acolytes, he writes, “What I mean is this: One of you (i.e., Paul’s followers) says, ‘I follow Paul;’ another, ‘I follow Apollos;’ [8] another, ‘I follow Cephas (that is, Peter),’ still another, ‘I follow Christ.’[9].  Similarly, in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 he likewise opines about Churches in Judea that spare no effort “to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved,” (i.e., the Jewish-Christian congregations are actively working against Paul’s mission), -to which he responds with what could be perceived as an antisemitic slight, referring to such Hebrew parishes as “those churches” that have “suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone,” (1st Thess. 2:14-15).  From this evidence and more that could be cited (but which I omit for the sake of brevity) I am thus forced to into the conclusion that the disciples would only take such an action (meaning, sending infiltrators, or, let’s call them “correctors,” to Paul’s churches -see: Gal. 1:6, and 2:4) if they viewed him, not as a friend and fellow disciple as the majority of the NT indicates, but rather as an open adversary that needed to be subverted / warned against.  -And Paul’s actual writings do nothing but confirm this suspicion (e.g.: the fact that Paul seems to tie the contentious 2nd meeting with the disciples to one such ‘infiltration’ -see Gal. 2:1-4, -is quite telling, to say nothing of the other citations referenced above^).

At any rate, no matter how thick of a line we want to draw between Paul on the one side and the true disciples of Christ on the other, the fact of the matter is that the line exists.  The first two chapters of the Book of Galatians, as well as 1 Cor. 1:12, and 1 Thess. 2:14-16 specifically make it clear that this difference bled over into Paul’s own congregations.  The entire purpose of Paul writing (or, more factually, dictating) Galatians, and, to a lesser extent, 1 Corinthians, was to rectify the problem of his followers abandoning his version of the “gospel” for other Christian teachers who clearly taught something different than he did and who were trying to subvert him, -and one of those ‘other teachers’ that he specifically mentions, more than once, is Peter.  The rest of the New Testament was written by those seeking to downplay this rift, if not erase it from history entirely.

 

FURTHER PROOF:  THE CLEMENTINE LITERATURE.

To fully drive the point home though, we would do well to take a brief sojourn at this juncture and travel outside of the NT canon, bringing us ultimately to what is known in academia as “The Pseudo-Clementine writings,” -two documents attributed (falsely) to an early Roman Church leader, Pope Clement I, which present(s) a wildly different view of the Peter-Paul relationship than what is found in the pseudographical works in the majority of the NT accounts.

Of course, to the skeptic, a question naturally arises, e.g.: what authority could pseudo-literature possibly hold for us, esp. considering that the method of this entire series is to discount the pseudographical literature as found in the NT, such as Acts, the epistles of Peter, and those other writings that are falsely attributed to Paul and other disciples, et. al.?  It’s a fair question, and deserves a fair answer.  At any rate, regarding the Clementine Literature, Dr. Ehrman makes an interesting point:

 

There are two sets of writings that that survive under Clement’s name: one is a set of twenty homilies (sermons) that he is said to have delivered (The Clementine Homilies), and the other is a ten-volume account of journeys that he undertook to locate long-lost members of his family (The Clementine Recognitions).  There are extensive similarities between these two sets of writings, -so much so that scholars have long been convinced that they both go back to a single, older writing that no longer survives, edited by two different authors in two different ways to give us the two sets of books that we now have…”  [10].

 

Se we see a distinct difference between the pseudographical NT writings on the one hand -which are all influenced by Pauline Christianity and quite often have as their obvious goal the sole aim of downplaying the estrangement that existed between Paul and the true disciples of Christ, -and the pseudographical Clementine literature on the other hand, -which according to many scholars, is, despite its late date, nevertheless traced back to a much earlier document, and is most likely related to Ebionite (that is, Jewish) Christianity [11].  In other words, like the Didache referenced in Part III of this series, the Clementine literature provides us with one of the few early Christian counter-narratives to Paul’s brand, and thus gives us some insight, however rudimentary, into the views of the Ebionite / Nazarene opposition so often silenced by the NT and the early Church.  The fact that it also links back to earlier documents makes it even more fascinating because, along with the Didache, the Clementine writings can be used to “fill in the gaps” so to speak, and fully-flesh out the Jewish-Christian response to Paul as it likely existed during his lifetime; something the canonized NT writings almost never allow.

Of most significance to this particular series re: the Clementine literature is how often “Saint Peter” figures into the narratives.  According to the documents, Peter was the primary traveling companion of Clement, and is often quoted at length throughout the texts.  The most striking example of a counter-Pauline narrative is in a letter sort of quasi- “pasted-in” as a preface to the Homilies, purported to be written by Peter and addressed to James, the content of which decries an unnamed individual that is most certainly Paul.  A fascinating excerpt, for your consideration:

 

“For some among the Gentiles have rejected my lawful preaching and have preferred a lawless and absurd doctrine of the man who is my enemy.  And indeed, some have have attempted, while I am still alive, to distort my word by interpretations of many sorts, as if I taught dissolution of the Law.  …But that may God forbid!  For to do such a thing means to act contrary to the Law of God which was made to Moses and was confirmed by our lord in its everlasting continuance.  For he said, ‘The heaven and the earth will pass away but not one jot or tittle shall pass away from the Law.'” (This last citation is referencing the words of Jesus as quoted Matt. 5:18, -the most ‘Jewish’ of all the Paul-influenced gospels, it should be noted.  The Ebionites read a version of Matthew’s gospel and considered it authoritative, though it was probably in a redacted or slightly different form than what we would recognize today).  [12]

 

Now, are these the verbatim words of Peter?  The answer is most probably, no.  But there is little reason to doubt that the general content represents the early Ebionite / Nazarene / Jewish-Christian understanding of the Peter-Paul relationship, esp. considering that the Clementine writings likely date back to much earlier material and, if not coming directly from the Jewish-Christian milieu, was most certainly influenced by it.  In other words, Peter didn’t write the above-cited letter any more than he wrote the epistles attributed to him in the New Testament, -but the goal of the Clementine literature is distinctly different than what we find in the NT canon.  Within the Pseudo-Clementine works is an obvious effort to preserve the counter-narrative of the Jewish-Christian understanding, -and we must remember that the disciples themselves were all undoubtedly Jewish Christians.  Hence, in a way, it is preserving their arguments against Pauline Christianity, -even if it’s unlikely that they were the actual authors of the Clementine material as it has reached us in the modern era.

Later in the Homilies (where the Peter-Paul relationship is most commonly addressed), Peter is made to dispute with a thinly-veiled stand-in for Paul, criticizing the latter’s claim to authority based on one passing vision, which is, according to said author of the Homilies, worth little as when compared to Peter’s year’s-long companionship with Jesus while the latter was still alive.  He writes:

 

“And if our Jesus appeared to you and became known in a vision and met you as angry and as an enemy, yet he has spoken only through visions or dreams or through external revelations.  But can anyone be made competent to teach through a vision?  And if your opinion is that it is possible, why then did our teacher spend a whole year with us who were awake?  How can we believe you even if he has appeared to you?  …But if you were visited by him in the space of an hour and were instructed by him and thereby have become an apostle, then proclaim his words, expound what he taught, be a friend to his apostles, and do not contend with me, who am his confidante; for you have in hostility withstood me, who am a firm rock, the foundation stone of the Church.”  (Homilies 17:19)

 

Whether Peter ever uttered such a thing is, again, a moot point.  The fact is, this is an extremely cogent argument that the early Jewish Christians would’ve most certainly made, -and it’s a hard one to refute.  If Paul’s “gospel” was truly authentic, why does he never quote Jesus?  (As we saw in the previous entry, he only quotes him once, and even then it was likely a false attribution, and certainly not a bonafide historical statement of Jesus’).  So, why does Paul rely solely on his own “visions” exclusively?  Why are these visions necessary at all?  What was the point of Jesus coming “in the flesh” and spending so much time with his disciples if the entirety of his message could merely be transmitted via a few passing visions to one man who had never even met him?  And why does the latter have more authority than the former?  Also, why is Paul averse to the disciples?  Why does he avoid and, occasionally, attack them if his message is truly from Jesus?  Wouldn’t any real Christic message bind the recipient to them (meaning, to the disciples), since they knew Jesus and followed him during his lifetime?  These are all unanswerable, yet obvious questions, and it’s simply too far-fetched to assume that the first time any non-Pauline Christian ever thought of them was somewhere between 70 – 211 C.E. (i.e., the time of the earliest manuscript evidence of the extant Clementine Literature, per Hilgenfeld, Baur, Schliemann, et. al.).  So.  Given the seemingly contentious relationship between the disciples and Paul as alluded to in Paul’s own writings, as well as the antagonism between the entire Jewish-Christian movement and Paul, it thus becomes absurd to doubt that the content of this fictitious dispute between “Peter” and “Paul” in the Homilies is false, -even if the wording / event is ahistorical.  The theme is certainly Jewish-Christian, and most probably can be linked back however tenuously to some inchoate, genuine argument or disputation that at least some of the disciples may have actually expressed in their lifetimes.

 

A FEW BRIEF COMMENTS UPON HOW PAUL OPERATES:

Of course, to most historians or even well-read autodidacts, none of this should be surprising or even controversial.  It’s well known in academia that Paul ‘reshaped’ the teachings of Jesus, and as anyone who cogitates upon this fact for more than a few minutes will certainly realize, such unauthorized alterations would have naturally created enmity between Paul and the actual followers of Christ, at least eventually.

As Dr. Barrie Wilson notes:

 

“An argument abolishing Torah observance for all time requires much …justification. Paul presented no biblical or other justification for contending that the Torah observance was over; he simply asserted that it was. Why the appearance of Christ rules out the Torah was never made clear. There was no appeal at all to what the Jesus of history said or did. There was no mention of any prophet. There was no reference to any saying of Jesus. It just rested on Paul’s saying that it was so. There was nothing in prior Jewish tradition to lead anyone to suppose that the Torah was temporary. To say that [Paul’s] argument is ‘flimsy’ is to be kind; it is simply expedient and self-serving. It’s an attempt to change the terms of the contract (between the Jews and God) unilaterally, by an outside party. Paul’s saying that the Jewish charter agreement with God has been terminated is analogous to some outside party, say the United Nations or the French Parliament, declaring the U.S. Constitution null and void. Just not credible.” [13]

 

As we shall see in later installments (and have already touched upon briefly in prior entries in this series), Paul did try to justify his position that the Halacha was no longer valid, -but he had to resort to misquotations, deceptions, sophistry, half-truths, etc. in order to make his case.  This even includes attributing let’s-call-them ‘unhistorical’ statements to Jesus (such as what we saw in the last entry, wherein we uncovered that Paul just made up Jesus’ Eucharistic statements to suit his own purposes).  So let us really reflect on this phenomenon from the perspective of Jesus’ disciples / the Jewish Christians:  If you’re someone who had lived with, followed, and indeed, deeply loved Jesus whilst he was alive, then of course you’d be well-nigh enraged at the notion that some Johnny-come-lately’s ‘altered’ version of Christ’s teachings are suddenly subsuming what you know to be Jesus’ true thoughts and instructions on a given topic.  Especially if this selfsame individual resorted to false attributions to your Prophet / Messiah to make his case, distorted the Sacred Scripture of your people, -and, on occasion, invented references that don’t even exist (as is the case in 1 Cor. 15:3-4 wherein Paul claims Christ “died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…”  -There is, of course, no such reference to any man dying and rising again on the third day in the Jewish scriptures… this is a non-existent reference that Roman converts unfamiliar with the Jewish Bible had no way to fact-check or verify).  All of this should be considered from the perspective of Jesus’ disciples / the Jewish Christians if we really want to understand the schism between the two movements.

To be clear, I’m mentioning this here simply as a segue into what will be my main concern going forward, and that primarily because by now I think I’ve established a certain foundational point that needs to be, not just made, but rather, established with certainty re: Paul.  Namely that he was not ‘just another disciple’ whose teachings were in harmony with the actual disciples of Christ.  In actual fact, he was directly opposed to them, and they to him, -sometimes bitterly.  Paul’s own writings, as well as the historical context of Christ as compared to Paul’s claims, and extra Biblical materials which give us an insight into Jewish-Christian thought all bear out the same fact:  Lines were drawn after Jesus’ earthly life, and it was Paul and his Roman converts on one side, and the disciples of Jesus and the the Jewish Christians on the other.

Having established this fact, we will, –insha’Allah– if God wills, concern ourselves with deconstructing Paul’s actual writings in future entries; exposing his sophistry (which sometimes devolves into the absurd), his deliberate misquotations and manipulation of Jewish scripture, his contradictions both with his own writings (i.e., ‘internal’ contradictions) and with Jesus (i.e., ‘external’ contradictions), his poor leadership, false prophecies, unverifiable ‘miracles,’ -and any other tactics that he used in the service of his false Christ.

 

CONCLUSION:

Until next time, I once again leave any and all readers with my heartfelt appreciation for your interest in my research and meandering thoughts, as well as with a reminder to subscribe to this blog if you find yourself so inclined (and, to that end: if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this blog, there should be a “follow” button of some sort that will send you an email notification whenever I write a new post), -that is, if you haven’t already!

As always, if there is any good in this work, then it is from God.  Only the mistakes are mine.

God Bless, and Peace to all!

 

Footnotes:

[1]  From “Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene:  The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend,” p. 66, para. 1.  Oxford University Press, 2006.

[2]  Ibid, p. 67, para. 5, 6.

[3]  Essentially, Ehrman is highlighting the fact that the “history” of the disciples as presented in Acts is beholden to the theological views of the (un-named) author of the text, and not the other way around.  In other words, Acts isn’t a book attempting to cull a theology from historical events, but rather, it’s a document that seeks to bend, manipulate, and mold history such that it becomes a narrative that fits nicely into an already extant theology, and furthermore, that this theology into which a “history” is being bent and molded so as to fit into, is unarguably and undoubtedly Paul’s (=meaning, the theology).

[4]  From “Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene:  The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend,” p. 12, para. 3.  Oxford University Press, 2006.

[5]  Dr. Wilson is here referring to the fact that the Romans, who occupied 1st century Judea, were the dominant culture, and were thus overriding every other extant culture, up to and including Jewish culture.  If the myriad of Jewish movements at the time, up to and including Jewish Messianism were a response to this phenomenon (which they undoubtedly were), then it would’ve been insanely counterproductive for any Jewish leader -including Jesus- to preach that the way to overcome Hellenization (which is the academic term for Roman cultural dominance, -Hellenization) -and so it would’ve been counterproductive and counter-intuitive to claim that all the Jews had to do to preserve their ‘Jewishness’ was to abandon the cornerstone of Judaism, namely, Halacha, or Jewish Law.  To claim that this was Jesus’ position is ridiculously anachronistic.

[6]  From:  “How Jesus Became Christian,” by Dr. Barrie Wilson.  St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009.

[7]  Ehrman writes:  “Paul had plenty of enemies in his own lifetime.  And often these were in the very Christian congregations that he himself founded, among his own converts.  In the Churches of Galatia there were Christians who insisted that Paul misunderstood the gospel of Christ when he maintained that Gentile men did not need to be circumcised to belong to the people of God.  Paul, they argued, was a relative late-comer to the faith that had perverted the original gospel message.”  This can be compared with what Paul writes in the Epistle to the Galatians, wherein he clearly blames Peter, James, and John -or at least their ‘brand’ of Christianity- for this ‘lapse’ in Galatia.  (See:  “Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene:  The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend,” p. 89, para. 3).

[8]  Apollos was apparently Jewish, and, according to the Book of Acts “only knew of the Baptism of John” (18:25).  It’s likely he was, like the disciples, a Jewish Christian, though perhaps of a different sect.  Maybe one that put more emphasis on John the Baptist.

[9] It’s also interesting to note that some Christians, per this citation in 1st Cor., grew weary of all of these differences, and preferred to eschew Jewish Christianity, Pauline Christianity, and Apollos’ apparent John-centric Christianity altogether, and instead only follow what they could decipher of Christ’s actual teachings -whatever they were.

[10]  From “Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene:  The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend,” p. 78, para. 4.  Oxford University Press, 2006.

[11]  Lapham, An Introduction to the New Testament Apocrypha, p. 48-9. (London: T&T Clark International, 2003)

[12]  Homilies, Letter from Peter to James, 2.3-5.  Translated by Ehrman.

[13]  From:  “How Jesus Became Christian,” by Dr. Barrie Wilson.  St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009.

 

Have a Minute? ‘Cause I’d Like To Introduce You To An Amazing Man You’ve Never Met: The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)…

“Muhammad” written in Arabic Calligraphy

 

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

“O God:
Send prayers upon the light of lights,
the secret of secrets,
the antidote for ailments,
the key to the door of ease,
-our master, Muhammad, the Chosen One-
and upon his pure family
and choice companions,
by the number of God’s blessings and favors.”
Amen.

 

So… for the past few weeks I’ve been reading this two-volume work titled, “Our Master Muhammad,” -which was written (originally in Arabic) by Imam Abd’Allah Sirajuddin Al-Husayni (d. 2002), a renowned Syrian Muslim scholar and mystic of the Rifa’i Sufi path, -a man famous for, among other things, having memorized more than a hundred thousand hadith (recorded sayings of the Prophet Muhammad -ﷺ-), and who was also known for his erudition in other religious matters, as well as his personal asceticism (pictured below).

 


Imam Abd’Allah Sirajuddin Al-Husayni


Of course, the above mentioned^ scholar’s erudition isn’t meant as if to say that his book -or that (more precisely) its translation- is the end-all, be-all of Islamic literature, or the most perfect book for a Western audience to use with the aim of understanding the Holy Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ), et. al., -because, first of all, NO book could do him justice, to start with, and even with that caveat out of the way: this work in particular contains a few weak / apocryphal narrations, some of which might be perplexing / bothersome to culturally Western folk (and re: said apocryphal narrations: I don’t intend to get into them here, for the sake of brevity); -as well as a few bits of commentary that the average person might not understand how to navigate (e.g., in one place, either the author, or editor, or translator -I’m not certain which- puts forth the minority Shafi’ite view that niqab [face veil for women] is mandatory in Islam, -which, again, is a minority view in Islamic Sacred Law, and not the strongest view, really. Such positions just being  put forth as though they were the “Islamic” position, rather than what they are in actual fact, i.e.: merely the position of a few scholars of one particular school of Islamic Sacred Law, will be quite misleading for Western audiences… this is just one example of a few of the deficiencies of the work from a Western-Muslim perspective. So, be aware that, though this 2 volume set is largely a magnificent work, it still contains many problematic -let’s call them “issues”- that keep me from full-fledged endorsing it for non-Muslims / Western lay Muslims, I guess is what I’m saying).

At any rate, that proviso aside, there is one particular narration that I came across toward the beginning of Vol. 2, which I honestly believe is the best, most encompassing description of the person and / or character of the Holy Apostle Muhammad ( ﷺ ) that I’ve ever seen in print. It was so good, in fact, that as soon as I’d finished reading it, I knew I had to share it with people, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, -despite the fact that it was a rather lengthy report, -if for no other reason than that they might come to better fathom the man who holds sway over the hearts of 1.6 billion human beings [1] on this planet.   -And I mean, lets be honest here… how few of us -especially those of us in the West- can say we’re even remotely acquainted with the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), really and truly? 

Thus the need for this “introduction,” -if you will…

So, anyways… the narration in question appears to be a singular account (i.e., all part of 1 cohesive report), but for whatever reason, it has, throughout the early ages of Islam, been split up among a few different hadith collections / books. Hence, the author of this present work (= the prenominate “Our Master Muhammad” series): Imam Abd’Allah Sirajuddin Al-Husayni, has done us the great service of bringing all of these disparate ‘pieces’ of the narration together and agglomerating them into one united anecdote, -and may God reward him for so doing.

 

The (Lengthy) Narration, PART I: A Physical Description of the Apostle (ﷺ):

And so, getting right into it:  The first part of the report is found in the hadith collection of Imam Tirmidhi, the entire statement being narrated by the grandson of the Holy Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ), Hasan ibn Ali (عليه السلام), who said, “I asked my uncle, Hind ibn Abi Hala -who was gifted at descriptions- about the beauty of the Prophet (ﷺ), hoping that he would describe to me something I could hold onto and cherish.  He (i.e., Hind ibn Abi Hala) replied:  ‘The Apostle of God had great, stately attributes, and was honored as such by others.  His face shone (with spiritual emanations) like the light of the full moon.  He was taller than a man of average height, but shorter than a tall man… his hair was wavy (and)… he would part it in the center… His hair would fall beyond his earlobes if he let it be.  His complexion was fair; his forehead wide. 

‘His eyebrows were long, arched, and full, without connecting (in the middle).  Between them was a (small) vein that would throb when he became angry.  The bridge of his nose was high and curved, and there was (spiritual) light above it… his beard was thick and his cheeks were even.  …his teeth were well spaced (i.e., lined up; -not crooked); a thin line of hair ran from his chest to his navel. 

‘His neck was as if the neck of a statue, and glimmered akin to silver.  He was perfectly proportioned, well-filled out, and well-built.  His stomach and his chest were lined up straight, and his chest was broad.  His shoulders were (likewise) broadly spaced, and his joints were strong and large.  His limbs, when unclothed, fluoresced brightly. 

‘A thin line of hair ran between his chest and navel, and besides this neither his breast nor stomach had any hair upon it.  His arms, shoulders, and upper chest were covered in hair, his forearms long, his palms wide.

‘His hands and feet were strong, his fingers and toes long.  The soles of his feet were slightly arched, and his feet were smooth so that water would run right off of them.  When he walked, he lifted his feet with vigor, leaning forward, and stepping lightly.  His stride was long, and when he walked it was as though he were descending from a height.

‘When he looked at something, he would turn to it with his whole body.  He would (often) lower his gaze (in introspection), and he spent more time looking at the ground than at the sky.  He would usually look at things casually, without staring.  He would follow behind his disciples (out of humility), and be the first to greet those he met (in the streets).'”

 

PART II: His Speech And Silence

Hasan (عليه السلام) continued:  “I then asked him about the Apostle of God’s (ﷺ) speech, and he said, ‘The Apostle of God was constantly full of sorrow [2], and always deep in thought; for he had no rest (i.e., owing to his constant concern for people).  He would be silent for long periods, and would not speak without need.  He would begin and end his speech by mentioning the name of God.

‘His orations were the compendium of discourse, and his words were concise and clear, with neither excess nor dearth.  He was neither rough nor feeble.  He emphasized (or, magnified) blessings, no matter how small, and never disparaged them; yet he would neither criticize nor praise the taste of food or drink.

 

Muhammad-calligraphy-tree
“Muhammad” Calligraphy / Artwork

 

‘The affairs of this worldly life would not make him angry, but if the truth were threatened then no one would recognize him, and nothing would quieten his anger until he had achieved justice.  (However) he would never become angry for his own sake, nor would he avenge his own self.

‘If he pointed at something, he would point with his whole hand (i.e., not in an arrogant fashion)… When he was angry, he would turn away with his whole face… When he was happy, he would lower his gaze.  His laughter was mostly smiles, revealing something like hailstones (meaning: beautiful white teeth, -as the Prophet -ﷺ- was known for ritually cleaning his mouth with a miswaak [3] and would floss with a palm fiber)…”

 

PART III: His Domestic Life:

At the end of the above^ segment, the narrator (again, Hasan –عليه السلام-, -the Grandson of the Prophet -ﷺ-), sort of “transitions” the account over to his brother, Husayn (عليه السلام), mentioning that, after their uncle (and, thus far, the primary narrator), Hind, had related all of this to him (=Hasan), he then went on to relate it to his brother Husayn, only to discover that Husayn had not only already similarly inquired and subsequently heard the same thing from their uncle, but was able to supplement the information with what he had received from their (=Hasan and Husayn’s) own father, the pre-eminent disciple and nephew of the Holy Apostle, Ali ibn Abu Talib (عليه السلام).

So, to put it another way, the narrative “transfers” from this point, and the narrator is no longer Hasan (عليه السلام), but rather his brother, Husayn (عليه السلام), who said, “I asked (our father, i.e., Ali) about how the Apostle of God (ﷺ) was when he was at home (i.e., amongst family), and he replied, ‘When he went home, he would divide the time that he spent there into three parts: one part for God (that is, in worship), one for his family, and one for himself.  He would divide this third part (i.e., the part “for himself”) between himself and the people… and he would keep nothing from them.  His custom regarding the part of his time that he devoted to his community was to give preference to the people of distinction (in religion), and to divide his time according to their spiritual merit.  Some of them had one need to ask of him, others two, others more, so he would busy himself with them, and would engage them with that which would benefit them as well as the community at large, answering their questions, and informing them of what was required of them, saying, “Let he who is witness to this inform those who are absent, and let me know the needs of those who are themselves unable to inform me (of their needs), for he who informs a ruler of the needs of those who cannot speak for themselves will have his feet made firm by God on the Day of Judgment.”

‘Nothing else would be mentioned in his presence, and he would not accept anything else from anyone.  People would go to him searching, and would not leave except after having been given a taste (=an old Arabic euphemism, meaning, “they would leave his presence in a state of serenity and satisfaction”), -and so they would go out as if (themselves) guides to good (conduct) (i.e., their hearts had been purified by his company, such that they left him with their own character traits altered for the better).'”

 

PART IV: His Social Conduct:

Husayn (عليه السلام) continues the narration:  “I then asked my father about what the Apostle’s (ﷺ) customs were when he was out of the house, and he replied, ‘The Apostle of God (ﷺ) would hold his tongue, except in regard to matters that concerned him.

‘He would make people feel comfortable, and would never frighten them off.  He would honor the noblemen of every tribe, entrusting their people to them.  He would be cautious of people, and careful around them, without denying them any of his cheery disposition or fine character.  He would miss his disciples (when they were absent), and would ask people about others.

‘He would praise what was good, and support it, and he would condemn what was vile, and deplore it.  He was consistent, never contradictory.  He was never inattentive, fearing that people would become heedless (of spiritual matters), or distracted.  He was prepared for any situation, and he never fell short of the truth, nor went beyond it (by means of exaggeration).

 

Ancient artwork depicting the Prophet (ﷺ).

 

‘The people who were close to him were the best of people (owing to his influence), and the finest of them in his sight were the ones who most sincerely advised the community; -and the greatest of them in his sight were the ones who were the most beneficial and helpful.'”

 

PART V: His Gatherings:

Husayn (عليه السلام) continues:  “I then asked him (=his father, Ali –عليه السلام-) about his (=The Holy Apostle Muhammad’s -ﷺ-) gatherings, and he replied, “The Apostle of God (ﷺ) would not sit or stand without making mention of God.  He would not reserve places for himself (in communal gatherings), and forbade others from doing so.  When he came to a congregation of people, he would sit wherever he found a place, and would command others to do the same (out of humility).  He would give everyone whom he sat with their share of his company, so that no one that sat with him would imagine that there was anyone dearer to him than them.  If someone sat with him, or sought his advice on something, he would bear with them patiently until they were the one to leave.  If someone asked him for anything, they would not leave except they possessed what they had asked (for), or (he gave them) a reassuring word (i.e., a promise to fulfill their request in the future).  He accommodated the people with his kindness and good character, and became like a father to them.  Before him, all were equal.  His gatherings were gatherings of knowledge, modesty, patience, and security.  Voices were not raised therein, nor where honors affronted, nor were sins committed, or disclosed.  The people were equal before him, but (they) would compete for precedence according to their piety.  They were humble, revering the elderly and having mercy on the young.  They would put the needy first, and take care of the stranger.'”

 

PART VI: His Etiquette and Manners:

Husayn (عليه السلام) continues:  “I also asked my father (عليه السلام) about the Apostle’s (ﷺ) manners with those whom he sat with, and he replied, ‘The Apostle of God was always cheery of disposition, easy-going, and compassionate.  He was not boorish, or coarse, or raucous, or vulgar, or critical, or miserly; he did not over praise nor (over-)jest, and he would ignore that which he disliked. 

‘He would not dash the hopes of anyone who hoped for something from him, and they would not be disappointed.  He withheld from himself three things: Disputation, extravagance, and that which didn’t concern him, and he withheld from the community three things: He would never criticize nor disparage anyone, he would not shame anyone, and he wouldn’t speak unless he hoped to be rewarded (by God) for it.  When he (did) speak, his disciples would lower their heads in humility, as though upon them were birds, and when he fell silent, (only then) did they speak.  They would not talk over one another in his presence; (rather) they would give their attention to whoever was speaking until he finished.  …He would laugh at what made them (=his disciples) laugh, and be amazed at what amazed them.

‘He would bear the rude speech of strangers questioning him, so that even his disciples would seek their (=the stranger’s) coming (owing to the fact that his disciples would gain religious knowledge by his answers to these ruffians).  He would (often) exhort: “If you see a person in need, help them.”  -He would never accept praise except that which was (within) appropriate (bounds).  And he would never stop anyone from speaking unless they had become turgid, in which case he would stop them either with a (single) word, or by standing up…'”

 

PART VII: His Pensiveness:

From here, Tirmidhi’s account of the two brothers, Hasan and Husayn’s, narrative regarding what they’d heard about the Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ) from their elder relatives comes to an end, yet Imam Abdallah Sirajuddin Al-Husayni has supplemented it, having found the same narration in Tabarani’s earlier report, which includes an appurtenant addendum:

So, in Tabarani’s account of the same anecdote, Husayn (عليه السلام) continues:  “I then asked my father (i.e., Ali –عليه السلام-) about the Apostle’s silence, and he replied, ‘He would be silent for four reasons: Forbearance, Caution, Appreciation, and Reflection.  As for his appreciation, it was in the form of looking and listening to all the people equally.  As for his reflection, it was upon that which ends, and that which is eternal.

‘Forbearance and patience were embodied in him, and nothing would anger him or agitate him.  Caution was manifested in him regarding four things: He would accept what was good so that he would be followed (by others in doing good), and he would leave aside what was bad so that it would be avoided (by his followers), and he would strive to arrive at that which was good for his community; -he would work to accumulate for them (abundance) in this world and the next.'”

…And so concludes the entirety of the account of the two grandsons of the Holy Apostle Muhammad -may God’s peace and blessings pour forth upon him in abundance, and upon his immaculate family, and his chosen disciples and companions, at every moment and every time. 

Amen. 

 

CONCLUSION:

And so now you have been gifted with some minute glimpse into the person & character of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ); -which is to say that you have viewed him through the eyes of a few individuals that actually knew and were intimate with him.  -i.e., those that interacted with him.  Their accounts are of an undeniably humble (and yet, beloved) man, quiet, shy, somewhat laconic, compassionate, indefatigably patient and forbearing, attentive, intelligent, observant, optimistic, cheerful, and physically handsome and awe-inspiring human being.

They saw in him a father, a mystic, a sage, an ascetic, a teacher, a Prophet, and an example, -the very paradigm of human conduct.  Most of all, to them, he was the Rahmatil-‘Alamaeen, according to the Qu’ran.  The “Mercy unto all the Worlds.” 

We should -any of us, whether Muslim or not- hope to be remembered once we’ve finally shuffled off our mortal coils, -and remembered as fondly by those that knew us when we were alive, as he (ﷺ) was and continues to be…. 

May God support us in our endeavours toward self-betterment.

If there is any good in this, then it is from God.  Only the mistakes are mine.

God Bless.

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1]  The number of Muslims in the world, as of 2011.

[2]  “Sorrow” here is not to be understood as sadness over worldly affairs, but rather, it is a description of his deep concern for the fate of those that rejected him, as well as his solicitude for and attentiveness to his followers, and finally, the great weight of responsibility that God had placed upon him in his capacity as the Final Prophet. 

[3]  Miswaak” = a small stick cut from the aromatic arāk tree, used as a toothbrush by the Arabs and North Africans. 

 


Paul of Tarsus: A Transmutation of the Anti-Christ. Part III

Arabic-Calligraphy-Islamic-Words-1

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

“O God,
send prayers upon the light of lights,
the secret of secrets,
the antidote for ailments,
the key to the door of ease,
-our master, Muhammad, the Chosen One-
and upon his pure family
and choice companions,
by the number of God’s blessings and favors.”
Amen.

 

Continued from Part II.

 

REVIEW:

So in the last entry we discussed what methodology I will use going forward (and why I’m using it) re: determining the who the historical Saul / Paul of Tarsus is (or, was), and what he taught, -meaning, who Saul / Paul was as opposed to the later scriptural and legendary interpretation(s) which created the mythical Paul-figure.  Hence, if you’re just tuning in and are under the mistaken assumption that the New Testament is 1) a reliable historical document, and 2) more or less in-sync with itself (and as such, there can -in your mind- be no difference between the historical Paul and the New Testament Paul-figure, -who was, virtually all historians contend, largely created out of thin air by the Book of Acts and the roughly 7-8 pseudo-Pauline epistles), then you’re going to need to go back and read the previous installment if you want anything I write in the coming paragraphs to make sense.

Now then.  With that out of the way: I think it might be pertinent here to mention or give a run-down, as it were, of the general Christian view of Paul’s story (which we could also call the NT -or, New Testament- Paul), particularly as it relates to his relationship with Jesus, first of all, and his relationship with the disciples of Jesus coming in at a VERY close 2nd (since both are of primary importance in order to understand the man, really), and to explain with even more detail than I’ve provided in the previous entry as to why this “NT Paul” is simply a fictitious character.

And so let us start with Jesus…

 

JESUS – THE DISCIPLES – PAUL OF TARSUS:  THEIR STORY (ACCORDING TO CHRISTIANS):

As Christians understand from their 4 Gospels, (the first 3 of which are known as the “synoptic gospels,” –synoptic meaning “summary,” -and so these 3, -Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are grouped together under this designation because, with the exception of the story of Christ’s crucifixion [regarding which all 4 gospels disagree on just about every point], they have some degree of coherence… John’s Gospel being a more radical departure, and thus not part of the 3 “synoptics.”) -and so, as Christians understand from their 4 Gospels (i.e., synoptic, or otherwise), Jesus was, according to them, at once a miracle worker, a Prophet, the Divine Son of God, as well as God Incarnate, and he preached as much, albeit mostly with the use of ambiguous statements, metaphor, and parable, -still, according to them, this was his message, and insomuch as he was in the capacity of God-in-the-flesh and / or the Divine “Son,” his purpose was to die “for the sins of men,” -a sin being, the breaking of Jewish Law (and later, the sins committed against “Christian Law” as well, -more on this purported “Christian Law” later) -which, according to Saul / Paul and those that have followed his version of Christianity for 2,000 years, was an intolerable burden (=meaning, the Jewish Law), impossible to keep perfectly, etc. and so God, in an act of mercy, sent Jesus qua God, and as God’s Son, to be the “ultimate sacrifice” -thus ending the ritual animal sacrifice required in the aforementioned Jewish Law, and in effect, making Halakha, i.e. Jewish Law, immediately null, void, and obsolete, and furthermore, by this atoning act (i.e., Jesus’ “ultimate sacrifice”), he likewise opened up the “true faith” to more people (since it is a known fact that Jews both before and after Jesus have always discouraged conversion), meaning, the God of Israel could now be worshiped by non-Jews as well, although now it’s in a different (and to Christians, “true”) form, e.g., the Triune form of Father, Son (=Jesus), and Holy Ghost.  Also, in order to set this “Divine plan” in motion, Jesus openly preached about it, -which was blasphemy to the Jews of his day- and so the Jews plotted and essentially succeeded in their aim of getting him ensnared with and finally executed by their Roman overlords (Romans being those that occupied Judea at the time), -and so it was that, in the most cosmic twist of irony imaginable, the Jews, through their “success” in executing this “blasphemer” from Nazareth, unwittingly made it so that God’s purpose from the outset was ultimately fulfilled anyways, i.e., the “blasphemy” as they supposedly saw it, -that of the abolishing of their Law and of Jesus claiming to be God, and God / Jesus then dying to abolish said Law, ultimately came to fruition.  Such is the “story” of Jesus according to Pauline Christianity, and the Christians of his persuasion (now in the overwhelming majority throughout the world) for two centuries.

What is perhaps more significant (according to Pauline Christians) is that after this crucifixion / atonement event, Jesus purportedly appeared to multitudes, though what he said to them is often omitted from the story except in later documents / gospels / epistles, -we are only told in the earliest accounts (i.e., those of Paul and the earliest recensions of the first gospel, Mark) that he appeared [1].  In later accounts (the later 3 gospels and forged epistles, etc.), Jesus is made to affirm his crucifixion and resurrection during these appearances, and gives his disciples the “great commission,” -which, again, doesn’t exist in the earliest manuscripts of the earliest gospel (Mark), but nevertheless, is likely to be found in all 4 gospels of whatever current English New Testament the average Christian is reading, -and so this is where Jesus tells his disciples to “preach to all the nations” or “all people,” -with all his other directives, statements, and claims during these visions / appearances varying widely among the 4 Gospel accounts (because, as a careful reading of the manuscripts will attest, everything in the 4 Gospels, from the crucifixion part of the story onward, is where any sense of cohesion is lost, even among the 3 synoptics).

The disciples, according to the Book of Acts / Pauline Christians, then set about doing just that, and commenced preaching to Jews initially, -that is, until one of Jesus’ earliest disciples, Peter, had a dream-vision of “unclean animals” being referred to as “clean” by God, -and which (modern) Pauline Christians give a double interpretation:  On the one hand, this vision meant that, now that Christ has atoned for their sins and abolished Jewish Law, Christians can forego Jewish dietary prohibitions (though this isn’t what the actual author of the story meant by this narrative, as seen by the words he puts into Peter’s mouth in Acts 10:28, -but I digress), -and on the other hand, it means that the up-until-now very Jewish disciples will have to accept Gentile, that is, non-Jewish converts to Christianity.

This “vision” of Peter’s is confirmed when Saul of Tarsus, former persecutor of Christians (as we saw toward the end of our last entry) converts to Christianity after his own vision (Acts gives contradictory accounts of this reverie, it should be noted, and Paul doesn’t elaborate very much on what this vision actually entailed in his verified letters), and (still just giving the “Christian” or “New Testament” side of the story here): -and so then, after a very brief interregnum of initial (and understandable) wariness on behalf of the disciples of Jesus, Paul eventually wins them over after a few weeks or months, and becomes best friends with them all, especially Peter, Jesus’ first disciple, who serves as a reliable middleman between Paul with his Gentile congregations, and James & the Jewish Church at Jerusalem.  They all (=meaning, the disciples, including Paul) suffer lovingly together for the rest of their lives (a few minor hiccups notwithstanding), and remain in communication until each one of them, one by one, in harmonious service of the Lord Jesus who died with the sole intent and purpose of remitting the sins of man and abolishing the burden of Halakha, -so, until each of them, one by one, meet martyr’s deaths themselves, up to and including Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, who most ardently fulfilled Christ’s “Great Commission” by sacrificing his own life, ultimately being beheaded by pagan Romans simply for preaching the Gospel of Christ.

Such is the Christian / New Testament understanding of the early Church, starting with Jesus, and ending with the martyrdom of the disciples.  There is, of course, one small problem:

Virtually everything I’ve just narrated -about upward of 90% of the above “account,” or more- is not only historically false, but absurdly so, and can be proven such were one but to amalgamate just a bit of historical knowledge with a reasonable admixture of logic / reason.

 

EVIDENCE 1:  PAUL LIED ABOUT JESUS -(AND WE KNOW IT):

And this goes to the heart of my theory that Paul was spiritually colonized by the Anti-Christ.  The simple fact is, the “Jesus” that Paul of Tarsus has created in his (verified) epistles (and which has been summarized above) is a complete fabrication.  One needn’t do too much work to prove this theory; -all that is required is to simply peruse the 7 epistles (that is, Romans, 1st & 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1st Thessalonians, and possibly Philemon) for yourself, and see how many times Paul actually quotes the words of Jesus to support his theory or his theology in any of these documents.  -But to save you a few hours, the whopping number is:  Once.

Here I’m referring to 1 Cor. 11:23-25, which has some seriously ambiguous wording in and of itself:

 

For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me.’ -In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.’

 

-So, but the thing is, notice how Paul introduces this purported “quote” of Jesus:  (Ἐγὼ γὰρ παρέλαβον ἀπὸ τοῦ Κυρίου) “For I received of the Lord…”  (1 Cor. 11:23).  The word translated from the Koine Greek and rendered as “received,” –παρέλαβον– or, parelabon, means just what it says, namely: “received or taken,” -that is, Paul is claiming to have “taken” this quote directly from “the Lord,” i.e., either God or Jesus.   -So, Paul isn’t saying that he heard this quote from people who knew Jesus, such as the disciples, nor is he claiming that what he’s about to relay is some well-known quotation that was floating around Judea, -and of which he is simply now reminding his fellow Christians and / or followers, -rather this quote is, he claims, a personal revelation from Jesus to him.  Recall that Paul wasn’t a Christian while Jesus was actually on earth; he converted much later, after the fact.  He spent no time with the living Jesus and, as we shall see later, very little time with the actual disciples.  Paul could in no wise claim to have ever heard Jesus say any such thing while the latter was alive, and certainly not a statement made in so intimate a setting as the purported “last supper” -which is what he is referencing here in 1st Corinthians.  He isn’t quoting the disciples -who were actually there- but rather saying, “Forget what you’ve heard from the eyewitnesses, because Jesus gave me a personal, secret revelation about what he actually said at this event…”

The question begs to be asked of course, if Jesus had actually said this thing (which so perfectly confirms Paul’s understanding of Jesus’s “true” purpose, i.e., to abolish Jewish Law via the vicarious atonement) -why did Paul need a special revelation for the world to hear about this statement?  Why not simply defer to the people that were actually there at the event under discussion, such as the 11 remaining disciples (Judas, the 12th, having already committed suicide by this time)?   Why doesn’t the citation begin as we might expect if it was authored by a man who was, according to the Book of Acts (and modern Christians), -so a man who was supposedly “best buds” with all the disciples; why doesn’t the citation begin more along the lines of, “And as the disciples have mentioned: that the Lord Jesus…” so on and so forth?  Or, “As Peter told me during a few of our plenitude of meetings: that the Lord Jesus...”  Or, “As James said, that the Lord Jesus…” or, “As you’ve all no doubt heard, Jesus once said…”  etc. etc. ad infinitum?

The answer is, of course, obvious:  Jesus never said any such thing.  Paul is giving new information here, for the first time, and doesn’t defer to the actual disciples because he knows if he did, and if the Corinthians actually decided to somehow fact check him (which would be extremely difficult to do in the ancient world, btw, as the journey from Corinth to Jerusalem is over 800 miles by sea, 1,882 miles by land, -an expensive and arduous journey that a bunch of Greek speaking Romans likely weren’t going to take with the sole aim of trying to verify with Hebrew / Aramaic speaking Jews a single sentence) -but if they’d decided to actually travel the 1,000 some-odd miles to verify this one teeny statement in but one of the (probably total of 4) letters / epistles that Paul had written to the Corinthians (2 of which have been lost to history), they (=meaning, the actual disciples of Jesus) would naturally point out what a patent and absurd lie this is, -had the Corinthians had the will or inclination to do such a thing.  Paul likely considered it best to not even draw attention to the disciples when offering his followers this “quote,” of Jesus’s, however.  -Don’t even bring them to mind.  –Egō gar parelabon apo tou, he says.  “For I received from the Lord

Interestingly though, even before Paul was writing this Epistle to the Corinthians (in roughly A.D. 53-57, according to historians [2]), or, at the very least, at around the same time, the Jewish Christians (the arch-enemies of Pauline Christianity, as we’ll see) were themselves reading from a text that, although it would continue to be edited for the next 50 or so years, nevertheless it provides a fairly accurate glimpse into how these arch-rivals to Paul’s “gospel” understood the same event.   As far as the text being referred to, I’m alluding to the Didache [3], the only Jewish-Christian document that has survived through history (at least, in full).  So, in other words: while Paul was preaching his “gospel” of Christ’s crucifixion somehow serving to abolish the Halakha, the Jewish Law, to a bunch of Romans who didn’t know any better, Jesus’ Jewish followers were preaching the opposite:  That Jesus himself was a Jew, and never would have advocated such a thing.  Like Paul, they too believed in the last supper, the difference being that, in their texts, there was no reference to Jesus’ blood, flesh, or implied atonement.  They quote no mystery revelations from Jesus, quite simply because they weren’t interested in such a thing (and also because it seems that they believed that Jesus said all he had to say while he was alive).  Their sole purpose and solitary aim was merely to do what Jesus himself did while he was still on earth, no more, no less:

 

Now concerning the Eucharist [4], give thanks this way: First, concerning the cup: ‘We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which Thou madest known to us through Jesus Thy servant; to Thee be the glory for ever!’ And (then), concerning the broken bread: ‘We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou madest known to us through Jesus Thy servant; to Thee be the glory forever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy congregation be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever!’” (Didache, Ch. 9).

 

There are no grand claims of personal revelations, no artificial quotations desperately aimed at giving their movement validity, etc.  Instead, it’s relatively straightforward:  According to these Jewish Christians, the Eucharist was simply a re-enactment of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples.  They added a prayer that made it very clear that Jesus was indeed the Christ (i.e., the expected Jewish Messiah), and that he was a righteous servant of God (i.e., a Prophet in the truest sense), -but there is nothing about his sacrificial atonement, no intimations at Divinity, and no elaborate sophistry nor terrific declarations of a revelatory kind.  It’s just a feast-ritual performed by a bunch of Jews who believed that Jesus was their (very human, non-redemptive) Messiah.

Of course, the modern Christian will object, citing the Gospel accounts of the Eucharist in their current Bible, all of which align with Paul’s account of the event in 1st Corinthians, -but they simply need to be reminded of the fact that these gospels were written by Pauline Christians.  They are not historical documents, but sectarian ones, written after Paul had already disseminated his teachings, and authored by those that had accepted those selfsame teachings [5].  If Jesus is quoted in the 3 synoptics (and later, in John) as having said something about the bread being his flesh and the wine being the blood of the new covenant, it’s not necessarily because Jesus actually said such a thing, but rather, because Paul claimed that Jesus said it, and his Gentile congregants believed him.  When these same Gentile Christians later wrote the 4 Gospels, little surprise that Paul’s version of history / the Eucharist is the one that made it in (as opposed to the more “Jewish” version of the Ebionites / Nazarenes, i.e., the authors of the Didache)  -And where did Paul get this information?  Not from any historical record, nor from the disciples, -not even from hearsay, but rather, from direct revelation, of course!

Naturally, we can only imagine what the Jewish Christians would say to this.

Or… can we?

 

MORE TO COME:

As it turns out, we’ve got a pretty good idea how the Jewish Christians felt about Paul’s purported “revelations,” -which is exactly what we’re going to be diving into in future installments, wherein I will, insha’Allah -God willing!- discuss the real Paul’s actual relationship with the disciples of Christ -a relationship which, as we’ll see, wasn’t nearly as friendly as modern Christians (nor the Book of Acts) alleges…

We’ll also offer even more proofs -from the historical record as well as from what little has survived of the Jewish Christian’s arguments against Pauline Christianity (which are surprisingly lucid, btw)- all of which will show how Paul has masterfully invented a fictitious ‘Jesus character,’ and attempted to superimpose this falsehood over the real, historical Jewish Prophet, -and, like a true agent of the Anti-Christ, he used miracles (along with other forms of allurement) to beguile people, and dupe them into accepting this false Messianic concoction.  -All of this being to the chagrin of those who, in Paul’s day, were actually in the majority:  Jewish Christians.

So, anyways.  Until next time, I once again leave any and all readers with my heartfelt appreciation for your interest in my research and meandering thoughts, as well as with a reminder to subscribe to this blog if you find yourself so inclined (and, to that end: if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this blog, there should be a “follow” button of some sort, that will send you an email notification whenever I write a new post), -that is, if you haven’t already!

As always, if there is any good in this work, then it is from God.  Only the mistakes are mine.

God Bless, and Peace to all!

Continue to Part IV.

 

Footnotes, Addenda, and Errata:

[1]  Actually, in Mark, we’re not even told that Jesus appeared to multitudes, as the earliest copies of the text cuts out after 16:8.  Verses 16:1-6 merely allude to his resurrection and to Jesus’ purported appearances post-crucifixion, without providing any further details.  See the Wikipedia Entry on Mark 16 for more info.

[2]  Per “The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”, Ed. James Orr, 1915, and Pauline Chronology: His Life and Missionary Work, from Catholic Resources by Felix Just, S.J.

[3]  Most historians today trace the Didache -in its current form- to the early 1st century (see: “Didache,” Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford University Press, and: The Didache:  A Window on the Earliest Christians, by Thomas O’Laughlin, 2011.  See also: Harmer, translated and edited by Michael W. Holmes ; after the earlier version of J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. (2006), namely: “The Apostolic Fathers in English,” (3. ed.) Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. p. 159). The early Church Fathers also referred to it as “The Teachings of the Apostles,” and “the Gospel to the Hebrews.”  When compared with the documents of the Jewish sect at Qumran, from whom Jesus and John the Baptist were both probably associated for a time, it is seen as likely that the text originates from a very early form of Christianity that, somewhat like Jesus himself, grew organically from this movement [a].  However, despite the fact that the current form of the Didache is from the early 1st century (e.g., some time around when John’s Gospel was first written), there is little doubt that it represents an edited form of a much earlier text (see: ”Didache.” Cross, F. L., ed. “The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.”  New York: Oxford University Press. 2005).  The prenominate references in this footnote will, if fact-checked by the reader, show that entire portions of the Didache are undeniably from the time of Paul’s verified letters, or, even earlier.

[a]  Draper, ed. by Jonathan A. (1996). “The Didache in Modern Research.” Leiden [u.a.]: Brill. pp. 74, 75.

[4]  Eucharist sounds fancy and very “Pauline” or “Catholic,” but it’s simply a Greek word meaning, “Thanksgiving.”  -From what we can decipher from the text of the Didache itself, we see that the Jewish Christians were merely giving thanks that Jesus, the Prophet and Messiah, had been sent.

[5]  For proof of this fact which is widely known in Academia (but, of course, not in Churches, among the faithful), one need simply ponder upon the fact that all of the 4 Gospels in the current New Testament are written in Greek and more or less conform to Paul’s doctrines.  Where is the Hebrew Gospel?  The Aramaic Gospel?  i.e., the Gospel written by people to whom Jesus spoke directly (since it’s absurd to think a Jewish carpenter was wandering around Judea speaking to Jews in Koine Greek, after all)?  They have been erased from history [a].  What we have are Greek Gospels, that is, Gentile Gospels, written by Gentiles, -another way to word this being: The 4 Gospels are documents written by those to whom Paul preached.  They undoubtedly come from his congregations, or congregations otherwise affiliated with his congregations.  They don’t come from the congregations that opposed Paul, such as the Ebionites, the Nazarenes, or the proto-Gnostics (with the exception of the Gospel of John, which may have in fact been authored by Pauline proto-Gnostics, -but the proto-Gnostics mostly accepted Paul as an authority, unlike the Ebionites and Nazarenes, so even in the case of John’s Gospel, we’re still getting “Paul’s Side of the Jesus Story,” as it were, -even if a highly exaggerated one).  For a more detailed unraveling of the proofs regarding my position that the 4 Gospel’s have a pro-Pauline, anti-Jewish-Christianity, unhistorical bias, see:  “How Jesus Became Christian,” by Dr. Barrie Wilson, PhD, and “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture:  The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament,” by Dr. Bart Ehrman.

[a] with the exception of a few terse mentions in later sources regarding an Ebionite Gospel, -from which a few quotations exist in certain “Orthodox” refutations of the 3rd and 4th centuries, -and the Clementine Literature, which, although much later than most of the NT canon, nevertheless links back to an earlier strain of Jewish Christianity… -but more on that in a later installment, hopefully.

 

 

Paul of Tarsus: A Transmutation of the Anti-Christ. ~Part II.

Arabic-Calligraphy-Islamic-Words-1

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

“O God,

send prayers upon the light of lights,

the secret of secrets,

the antidote for ailments,

the key to the door of ease,

-our master, Muhammad, the Chosen One-

and upon his pure family

and choice companions,

by the number of God’s blessings and favors.”

Amen.

 

Continued from Part I.

 

A SHIFT IN THE CONVERSATION:

And so, going forward, the approach of my thesis is going to take a slight departure from the previous entry insomuch as the latter (meaning, the first entry) was more or less concerned with establishing the base / foundational point that, per Islamic hermeneutics, there is a such thing as 1) eternal men / beings that live on earth for the entirety of human existence (i.e., from the time of the dawn of man until the Day of Judgement), as well as the fact that 2) Ad-Dajjāl, the Anti-Christ, is one such being who, unlike what modern Christians have come to believe, is not an entity whose existence will manifest at solely the end of time, but rather, someone (or, something) that has existed since time immemorial, up to and including the present day, -and finally, 3) that this being, Ad-Dajjāl, has some sort of demonic or satanic spiritual power that seemingly bursts forth from his own dark soul as if pneumatic, prehensile tendrils, and by these vaporous lariats he can “spiritually colonize” -either partially or fully- certain individuals that are open to receive him.  (We might also add that the Anti-Christ tends to seek out and ultimately find such “spiritual victims” whenever a new Prophet emerges; this is esp. true when we consider the examples already heretofore cited, i.e., that of Samīri at the time of Moses [عليه السلام], Saf Bin Sayyad during the life of Muhammad [ﷺ] and, going forward, Paul of Tarsus, who did his malefic work shortly after the life of the Prophet of his age, -namely, Jesus Christ [عليه السلام].  And so the purpose of Ad-Dajjāl’s method in this regard appears to be an attempt at causing deviations or a departure from the message with which the new Apostle in question has been sent; in essence we might say that he is trying to “counterbalance” any new Divine guidance with satanic aberrations).

Anyways.  The departure (or shift) from the aforementioned “foundational base” going forward lies in the fact that my goal will be, not to further prove that this theory of Dajjālic transmutations is true or possible (as this has been accomplished with great effort and considerable detail in the previous entry, after all), but rather to thoroughly examine all available data regarding the historical of Paul of Tarsus, the self-proclaimed “Apostle to the Gentiles,” and demonstrate how completely, unequivocally, and perfectly he fits the description of one such Dajjālic “colonization.”

I would also like to briefly take advantage of this present exordium to mention that, despite the fact that my initial blog was originally subtitled “Part I of II,” -even so, after considerable study, research, and assiduous note-taking, I’ve come to realize that the gargantuan amount of material I’ve gathered interdicts my hubris in this regard; this study will likely require a total of 3, 4, or even 5 entries (or, possibly more) to fully flesh out everything and lay bare all the proofs.  Part of the reason for this is, as stated, the sheer amount of material I’ve gathered toward my aims, but also too there’s the fact that, unlike the Dajjālic transmutations before him, Paul was exceedingly gifted at sophistry, and as such, it often takes tremendous effort to untangle the knots of his well-crafted falsehood (and so, as stated, this makes him somewhat unique, -still though, it could be said that he takes after Samīri in this regard, -but we’ll discuss more on that later insha’Allah -God willing-).

 

A PROBLEM WITH SOURCES AND CHRISTIAN INTERPRETATION(S):

One quandary I’ve run up against in my investigation which also must be addressed before moving forward is the fact that, despite the appearance of a plethora of biographical information re: Paul of Tarsus, especially in the Christian New Testament, nevertheless what historians veritably know about the actual man as he was, (i.e., not as he was ‘remembered’ or embellished in later Christian accounts, but what is known with certainty about Paul as historical figure) is significantly diminished by the fact that most of the materials we have are either pseudographic (as is the case with 7, or, more likely, 8 of the 14 epistles attributed to him in the New Testament), or are fundamentally worthless accounts that cannot be relied upon to produce for us anything even remotely resembling an accurate history (here I’m referring to the book of Acts, also known as “The Acts of the Apostles,”), -or, as it relates to those few texts that can be verified as having come from him (roughly 6-7 of the Pauline epitles that aren’t pseudographical) have nevertheless been, in some instances, not written by his own hand but rather, dictated to a scribe (as is the case with all but two of the “verified” 7 Pauline epistles, Galatians and 1 Corinthians and, perhaps, the last few sentences of the epistle to Philemon -more on that later) and further edited, redacted, etc. after the fact (as discrepancies among the most ancient copies of these epistles attest).  In short, even among the “verifiable” epistles there is ample room for questioning and considerable uncertainty.

It is owing to the above mentioned data that the average lay Christian will no doubt find his or herself appalled at the notion (or even the insinuation) that anyone could dare put forward so daring a claim as this: that their long-suffering martyr, Paul of Tarsus, who preached such love, mercy and compassion, and who went to such indefatigable lengths after a “holy vision” to propagate his “gospel,” could ever be evil (much less an actual agent of the anti-Christ!), -for, in their eyes, -that is, lay-Christian’s eyes that have been affected by hearts so credulously attached to their own indoctrination, and the inculcation within them with regard to a belief that the New Testament is naught but historical truth from beginning to end is so great, -such that they have long gazed upon their scriptures, these Christian eyes, -eyes that have been trained since childhood to see a (non-existent) harmony of doctrine starting from the gospel of Matthew that continues all the way unto the Book of Revelation (or the ‘Apocalypse’ of St. John as it is sometimes called) -and, indeed, from Genesis to Revelation / The ‘Apocalypse,’ in fact, -and so it is owing to this that any Christian reading thus far is no doubt convinced that I am an insane conspiracy theorist, an absurd controversialist, et. al.  Hence, my first order of business is to unveil the truth of the matter, this verity being chiefly that: despite what they were taught by well-meaning Sunday school teachers, pastors, priests, and the like, nevertheless there is extreme disunity in the New Testament, just as there was (as we shall see) disunity among the earliest Christians, even the disciples themselves, -and that this discord and disconnection is 1) chiefly the fault of Paul, and 2) has been cleverly hidden from the average Christian worshiper.

So it is in a spirit of nothing but love for my fellow human beings that I’ve come to see researching and writing this as my duty, after much investigation (and, being objective insomuch as I was able): to uncover this deception and expose it for what it is, that the light of truth may shine forth and ultimately bring peace to many misguided hearts and minds.  (After all, isn’t it true that, following the first shock of a jarring new rectitude, however painful and terrifying it may initially be, even so, over time the consternation lessens, the first hot emotions return to a natural equilibrium, and then, once the fog of our inceptive jolt has cleared, we are able to finally admit that we’ve been duped through no fault of our own, and thenceforth redirect our course in a more appropriate direction, whereby ultimately finding peace?  -To aid my Christian brethren in this attainment of that serenity that always comes with a truth realized, -this is my intention; nothing more).

 

ON PAUL’S OWN WRITINGS, PSEUDOGRAPHICAL OR NOT?

Now of course, after reading the above, one may well be flummoxed and confused.  ‘If the sources are so unreliable,‘ one may ask, ‘how is it you were able to decipher anything about the man?‘  -And it’s a reasonable question.  Given what I’ve written thus far, it may be assumed, wrongly, that we can’t know anything about the real Paul of Tarsus, and hence it becomes easy for many of my coreligionists (=Muslims) to simply dismiss anything regarding him in much the same way as they flippantly disregard the Bible as a whole.  ‘It’s just a collection of stories, that is, 2nd or 3rd hand accounts, and rumors,‘ they say, much like the Atheists and Agnostics of our day.  It would be a mistake to take this attitude regarding Paul, however.

The fact is, 7 of the purported 14 Pauline epistles (-14, that is, if we include the Epistle to the Hebrews among those attributed to Paul, as most Christians allege) are reasonably authenticated, which is to say, there are 7 letters authored by Paul that virtually all historians agree on as being actually penned (or, dictated, at least) by the man himself.  They are as follows:

 

1)  Romans

2)  1 Corinthians

3)  2 Corinthians

4)  Galatians

5)  Philippians

6)  1st Thessalonians

7)  Philemon

 

Of these 7, I personally omit Philemon, agreeing with the Tübingen School of thought [1] in this regard, as well as Dr. Richard Carrier [2], all of whom cast aspersion on Philemon and doubt its being actually written / dictated [3] by Paul, for a number of reasons.  Even if I did agree with the majority consensus, however, it wouldn’t add much to this essay, as the Epistle to Philemon is only 1 page long, and is largely unrelated to Paul’s peculiar theology.   As such, we are left with 6 letters, some of which are quite lengthy, -and they give us immense insight into Paul’s life and teachings.

With the above under consideration, we see that the remaining 7 (or 8, if we count Philemon) epistles are quite obviously forgeries.  Devout Christians deny this of course, but devout Christians are rarely able to read Koine Greek (for example), nor do they have access to the ancient Biblical manuscripts, and what’s more, they tend to be rather unaware of the historical realities of both Jesus’s (عليه السلام) and Paul’s time, -all of which the most eminent historians have used to decipher which Pauline epistles are pseudographical, and which ones are reasonably authentic.  To this end, consider:  The telltale signs of a forged epistle are as follows:  1)  They are written in a style (in the original Greek) that is completely different than the 6 (or 7) known and attested Pauline letters; also: 2) they are dated to a time too late to have been written by Paul (i.e., there isn’t even an iota of evidence that they existed in written form before a certain moment in history, and that moment or date would’ve been long after Paul’s execution): 3) they include references to historical events that Paul himself couldn’t have known about, as the events in question occurred after his time, and 4) they sometimes include theological points of view at odds with the established Pauline letters.  In many cases, the pseudo-Pauline epistles are guilty of all 4 of these offenses simultaneously [4].

 

THE PROBLEM WITH THE ‘ACTS OF THE APOSTLES,’ AND MY METHODOLOGY FOR UNCOVERING THE ‘HISTORICAL’ PAUL:

From this basic point of having established which Pauline letters are usable and which ones can be discarded, we must now deal with another issue that most Christians are unaware of:  Here I’m referring to the Book of Acts.  With the aforementioned “credulous eyes” of Christian believers, they read the lengthy treatise of purported history known in Christendom as ‘The Acts of the Apostles,’ or, ‘the Book of Acts’ (or, just ‘Acts’ for short), and then, following the Biblical chronology, move on to the Pauline epistles (both the actual ones and the forgeries) and assume that everything is coherent.  To them, Acts is history, the natural conclusion to the 4 gospels, and a worthy precursor to the letters of the various apostles that come next (in terms of Biblical ordering).  The simple fact is, however, that the Book of Acts is basically useless as a historical document.  The author is unknown (it is anonymous in the original manuscripts, i.e., neither named nor signed), but, whoever the author was, he clearly belonged to the Pauline strain of Christian thought (as opposed to the Jewish strain that existed simultaneously: more on that later). -Somewhere around Acts chapter 10 the original disciples more or less disappear from the narrative entirely, and everything thereafter focuses on Paul.  It was written sometime in the early 2nd century, well after Paul’s death, and includes details that contradict what Paul himself dictated / wrote in the 6 verified epistles.  Regarding this phenomenon, Dr. Bart D. Ehrman writes:

 

There are places where the book of Acts reports on the same events of Paul’s life that Paul himself refers to in his own letters, and we can compare what Acts says about Paul with what Paul says about himself.  What is striking is that in almost every instance where this kind of comparison is possible, disparities -sometimes very large disparities- appear between the two accounts… (Acts) would’ve been written at least a generation after Paul himself, no doubt by someone in one of Paul’s own communities who would have heard stories about the apostle as they had been in circulation in the decades after his death.  But as we all know, stories get changed in the retelling, and thirty years (or more) is a long time.  Most scholars contend that Paul is a better source for knowing about Paul than (the author of Acts) is, -that where there are discrepancies, it is Paul who is to be trusted.[5]  (Bold emphasis mine)

 

Also, too, there is the fact that Acts isn’t even consistent with itself.  Ehrman continues:  “There are three passages in the book of Acts that describe Paul’s conversion to Christ… but what was this vision, and what happened when Paul experienced it?  It depends on which account you read, the one in Acts 9, 22, or 26.  …if (the author of Acts) was willing to modify his story depending on the context within which he told it, why shouldn’t we assume that he modified all of his stories whenever he saw fit?”  Hence, Ehrman reasonably concludes: “If we want to know about the historical Paul, we will treat Acts for what it is, and not pretend that it records events that you would have been able to capture on your camcorder if you had been there.[6]

So, with all of the above^ in mind, what, then, is my methodology in deciphering the historical Paul?  Quite simply this:  I use what we know from factual history (e.g., what was going on in Rome and with the Jews and Christians in 1st century Judea that historians have been able to decipher with a reasonable degree of certainty), I then compare and contrast that with the verified letters of Paul (i.e., the 6 actual Pauline Epistles), and then compare the two (for example, the documents we have from Jewish Christians and what their beliefs were, vs. those of Paul, which helps us “flesh out” the arguments of the opposition -a voice that is wholly absent from the NT), so as to give us a more or less accurate perception of who he was in his ancient context.  I also closely examine the (often convoluted) doctrines as put forth by the man himself, and deconstruct them.  I will use the book of Acts sparingly, and only insomuch as it agrees with the 6 verified Pauline epistles, or when it narrates something that I have reason to suspect might be true; in every other instance however, I wholly disregard it as pious fiction.

The other NT epistles, such as those attributed to Peter, Timothy, James, et. al. (and which are most certainly forgeries as well) will be dealt with in a later entry, insha’Allah -God willing!

 

THE 6 SIGNS OF A DAJJĀLIC TRANSMUTATION:

So, with that rather lengthy obiter dictum out of the way, we may now move ahead with something more substantial:  Recall in the prior essay that I listed 3 congruent characteristics that Dajjālic transmutations tend to have in common:

1)  The transmuted individuals are not outwardly enemies of their respective Prophets, but rather appear to be among their followers and / or advocates.

2)  They perform miracles, -but these miracles misguide rather than guide [or at least, that is their aim].

3)  They may or may not be fully “colonized,” -and, if only “partially colonized,” they may at times seem to be acting of their own accord, -they could even conceivably appear to be what we might call “righteous,” while at other times they are acting intently upon their desire to beguile the immediate followers / disciples of the Prophet of their age (recall that Saf Ibn Sayyad, one example of a Dajjālic transmutation that I cited, embraced Islam and even went on the pilgrimage to Mecca).

Such were the three “signs” that I listed toward the conclusion of the previous entry, but, these 3 sigils aside, the fact of the matter is, we may well add a few more indicators of a ‘spiritually colonized’ individual, such as (but not limited to):

4)  They sometimes speak in obscure, ambiguous ways (as seen by Saf Bin Sayyad’s arcane statements, e.g., “True people and liars visit me,” and “‘It is Al-Dukh (the smoke).”

5)  They are occasionally compelled to do certain actions (as opposed to doing them of their own volition) as seen by As-Samīri’s declaration that “my inner self was lured…

6)  Based on what we can decipher about the future appearance of the actual anti-Christ per scriptural prophesy, i.e., what will happen when he actually manifests in the end times, according to both Christian and Islamic hermeneutics, it can be inferred that, initially, he will teach peace, -but this will be toward a nefarious and evil end.  Hence we may submit that, theoretically, a Dajjālic transmutation would (or could) do likewise:  Some of the doctrines or statements of the ‘spiritually colonized’ may inspire hope, may exhort to peace, et. al., -but this is nearly always a segue into something odious, i.e., it diverts or channels one’s attention into something that is ultimately evil, such as idolatry, dissension among the faithful, or some otherwise false or harmful teaching.

As this essay progresses toward its later entries / chapters, we will see that Paul of Tarsus possesses all of these traits, and even more (-his extremely tangled sophistry, for example, is something unique to him, no doubt owing to his being a Greek-speaking intellectual; the Anti-Christ “spirit” used this skill to diabolical ends as will be uncovered in a future installment –insha’Allah– rather lucidly).  -Or, to put all of this another way: I intend not only to demonstrate that Paul of Tarsus can be said to possess all of the above characteristics of a Dajjālic transmutation,  but I will also provide evidence so as to show that these are the least of all the available evidences as to why I hold to the theory that he was a man that was ‘spiritually colonized’ by the Anti-Christ.

Before getting into any of that^, though (as stated, I intend to fully deconstruct both Paul’s character and theology in later entries), -I rather think one singular topic is paramount before we get into the dirty work of scrutinizing the primary sources that prove his deviancy beyond all doubt, and that is, quite simply: we must discover who Paul was before he supposedly “converted to Christ.”  This will be telling, if for no other reason than it leaves us with a rather interesting question:  Was he the type of man, in an archetypal sense, that God would normally guide, or was he instead someone that was closer to the darker forces at his purported ‘moment of conversion?’

Let us examine the facts…

 

‘SUDDEN CONVERSION’ THEMES IN SACRED TEXTS:

Now I know it is common in hagiographical literature for authors (whether biographers or autobiographers) to consistently adopt the leitmotif of the “sudden conversion” from sin to righteousness, and neither the author of the book of Acts, -whoever he is- nor Paul himself strays too far from this general theme when relating the conversion story of Saul, soon to be known by the cognomen “Paul” (-and, why he changed his name isn’t clear, contrary to Church legend.  Christians believe that this occurred owing to his conversion, but their scriptures attest no such thing; it is simply unverifiable ecclesiastic folklore.  Though I may intimate a theory:  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Saul, from the Hebrew She’aul (שאל), was related to the Old Testament term sheol, meaning, “place of dissipation / death.”  Hardly a fitting name for an apostle of Christ, I suppose, -but this is all tangential).  And so.  There is one key difference between the sudden conversion of “Paul” and the other purported saints both before and after him:  Most other hagiographies depict a (future) saint lost in desires and debauchery more so than tyranny, murder, or oppression.

The reason for this is owing to certain archetypes present in Abrahamic Sacred Literature, and the types of “disbelief” that the antagonists (or unaffiliated) represent.  So, for example, there is the “sudden conversion” of 4 of Jesus’ disciples according to all 4 Gospel accounts (in one of the rare instances where they agree), here referring to Simon, Andrew, James, and John.  The general gist of the stories here being that, despite Jesus’ seemingly perfunctory request that they leave their fishing nets and join him, they all do so immediately.  The tax collector (either Levi, or Matthew, depending on which account we go by) was likewise immediately called, and immediately accepted that call.  The “sin” (if we may call it that) of unaffiliation, or what a Muslim might call “ghaflah” -heedlessness as to spiritual matters, was immediately destroyed within the first 4 disciples upon witnessing the countenance of Christ, whereas the sin of greed was the one eradicated in the case of Levi / Matthew.

The point here is that these sins are sins of “desire,” -what we would call shahwa in Arabic.  Similarly, (to cite later examples) the famous French saint, Peter Abelard was converted from his Christian hypocrisy to “true faith” after it was discovered that he had impregnated Héloïse d’Argenteuil and was subsequently castrated by local townsfolk as a punishment (the idea being that his hypocrisy was a sin borne of lust, i.e., shahwa, rather than of tyranny, hatred, and stubborn obstinacy to the truth).  Likewise, the hagiographers delight in telling later generations about St. Francis of Assissi’s luxurious lifestyle, wealthy friends, and flamboyant clothes before he received the vision that precipitated his conversion to Christian asceticism (an account remarkably similar to some of the reports about the ‘pious king,’ ‘Umar ibn Abdel Aziz in Islamic literature, and also has parallels in the account of Ibrahim ibn Adham’s “sudden” sainthood).  Muslim examples follow suit in this regard…  Muhyideen Ibnul-‘Arabi refers to his “sinful youth” -a time when he disdained lengthy prayers and enjoyed dancing parties. That is, of course, until his miraculous visions which would eventually exalt him to the station of the “Seal of the Saints.”  Similarly, Abu Hamid Al-Ghazaaali mentions in Al-Munqidh that it was his love of praise and position (which ultimately rendered him unable to speak, perhaps due to psychological turmoil / guilt) that precipitated his eschewing worldly comforts and embarking upon a life of spiritual and material poverty -all of which became necessary components in his metamorphosis from famous (if worldly) sectarian apologist to the saintly Hujjatil Islam (Proof of Islam).

In these stories, and virtually all of the others like them that we could cite, we find men lost in the world, the dunya as it’s called in Arabic, -the fleeting, ephemeral pleasures of life, the distractions of the mundane, and the lusts of the flesh, -such was their state before a sudden experience that leads to true conversion.  It’s a common theme, and while such stories are often (but not always) exaggerated by the hagiographers, there probably rings some element of truth to all of them.

 

THE ‘PHARAOHNIC ARCHETYPE’ / MUHSTAHZI’IN:

Paul’s theophanic vision however, is not one that pulls him from the chains of distraction, lust, or heedlessness, as with the other saints and apostles both before and after him.  Which is to say that shahwa is not his “spiritual disease,” but rather it’s something that tends to have a different end result in Sacred Literature (but, somehow, not in the case of Paul).  By this I mean that Paul’s “spiritual archetype” before the leitmotif of his “unexpected transformation” is not that of heedlessness, or lust, or distraction, but rather, of murderous obstinacy.  He was what we might term or refer to as a “Pharaohnic archetype.”

The Qu’ran describes Pharaoh, the great antagonist of Moses, in the following words:

 

“Truly, Pharaoh elated himself in the land and broke up its people into sections, depressing a small group among them: their sons he slew, but he kept alive their females: for he was indeed a creator of fitnah (i.e., hardship, strife, oppression, etc.).”  (Surah al-Qasas: 3-6).

 

Without getting into too much detail, suffice it to say that there were also similar ‘Pharaohnic archetypes’ during the life of the last and final Prophet (here referring with all due reverence to the Holy Apostle Muhammad -ﷺ-).  In the early biographies and hadith compilations (as well as in some of the earlier chapters of the Qu’ran), they were referred to as the “muhstazi’in,” (المستهزئين) -the “mockers.”  They included the likes of ‘Utbah ibn Rabi’ah, Ummayyah bin Khalaf, ‘Amr ibn Hisham (i.e., Abu Jahl), Abu Lahab, ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’ayt, Al-Walid ibn Mughirah, and Nadr ibn Harith.  The fact that they are referred to in Islamic literature as “mockers” is not to suggest that lampooning the Prophets and their disciples was the highest crime of these individuals; it is simply a designation or label isolating them from other types of disbelievers, non-Muslims, folk of other dispensations / faith traditions, et. al., so that they may be adequately addressed as a unique (and more egregious) class.

In the case of the muhstazi’in, they not only mocked, slandered, and vilified the Holy Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ), but, when they saw his followers begin to increase in number, they took to active persecution.  In some cases, they tortured and / or murdered any within their own tribes that became Muslim, in other cases they imprisoned Muslims or put sanctions on them, and, in some instances, they would “warn” any newcomers or travelers that happened to enter the city of Mecca, using calumny and slander as their modus operandi in this regard, and that so as to dissuade individuals from the outlier tribes from even listening the the Apostle (ﷺ) or his followers.  To put it another way: they used everything at their disposal, be it violence, imprisonment, torture, threats, or libel to persecute the early Muslims and stamp out the Prophetic message.

So whether we want to call them mockers, scoffers, Pharaohnic archetypes, or mustahzi’in, -whatever designation we apply, even so, they all have pretty much one thing in common:  They persecute the believers.  These men, be they the mustahzi’in at the time of the Holy Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ), or Pharaoh before him, -they aren’t simply astray, or heedless, or weak men that have succumbed to their desires and are thus in need of spiritual realignment, or what have you, -rather, they are rotten to their very core, and full of hatred for truth and goodness.  In short, they are willing to oppress for the sake of evil and falsehood.

The thing about Pharaohnic archetypes though, is that these individuals are very rarely, if ever, able to be guided.  Their hearts are made of complete stone, metaphorically speaking, and these selfsame hearts are full to the brim of vice, anger, and loathing; there is simply no room for guidance, a result of this being that there is nothing for them in this life or the next except to serve as signs of God’s immense power, transcendence, and might.  -In a word; the “Pharaohnic archetypes” always meet their doom.  In the case of Pharaoh himself, the ultima thule in this regard, we need not revisit his story, as the tale of his terrible, watery grave is well known.  In the case of those prenominate muhstahzi’in from the time of the Holy Apostle (ﷺ), however, suffice it to say that all of the aforementioned “mockers” were destroyed.  All but two of the men I’ve named above were killed during the famous battle of Badr by some Muslim that they likely held in contempt and deemed lowly.  Of the two remaining (and unfortunate) miscreants: the first, Walid ibn Mugheerah, died even before that eponymous battle when a wound opened on his foot (for no earthly reason, as the gash in question was several years old at the time and had already healed), causing him to die of an infectious and involuntary blood letting [7].  The second, Abu Lahab, died shortly after the battle of Badr, when a woman from another tribe, referred to in Islamic sources as Lubaba, struck the old wretch in the head with a tent pole.  The wound turned septic, his body broke out in boils, and he died in agony a week later.  These same sources relate that his corpse became rancid almost immediately, and was so putrid that he couldn’t even be buried; rather a few slaves were hired to push the rancid carcass toward a pit on the outskirts of Mecca; thereafter they pelted the body with stones until it was completely covered [8].

 

PAUL OF TARSUS:  A ‘PHARAOHNIC ARCHETYPE’ PAR FORCE:

The point in mentioning all of this is to highlight the most significant point re: Paul of Tarsus and his purported ‘hagiography’ as depicted (in very contradictory accounts, as we’ve seen) in the Book of Acts and alluded to in his letters, namely that it doesn’t fit the pattern.  Paul was no St. Francis of Assisi or Muhyideen Ibnul-‘Arabi before his self-avowed “vision” of Christ.  He himself admits what he was, after all:

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.”  (Galatians 1:13)

And:

For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  (1 Corinthians 15:9)

And:

Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.  If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law: a Pharisee, as to zeal: a persecutor of the church” (Philippians 3:4-6)

A picture which is loosely filled in by Acts (and in this case, since the reports are in accord with what Paul himself has written in his verified epistles, we may accept them as relatively historical accounts), -and so Acts describes Paul’s persecution in a number of places, the most striking narrative being when he apparently cheered on (if not actively participated in) the murder of a Christian identified in the text by the name of Stephen:

Then they cast him (Stephen) out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul… And Saul was consenting to his death.”  (Acts 7:58-8:1).

So, here we have Paul enjoying (if not partaking in) a murder, yet Acts continues, telling us that he also imprisoned Christians, male and female alike:

But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house; he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”  (Acts 8:3).

He also engaged in intense threats:

And Saul, yet breathing out threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest…” (Acts 9:1)  -So, basically, it’s little wonder that he gained such an awful reputation among Christians, as Ananias (a Christian) is later quoted as saying, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man (Paul), how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem…” (Acts 9:13).

I remind the reader of the Qu’ranic description of Pharaoh:

 

“Truly, Pharaoh elated himself in the land and broke up its people into sections, depressing a small group among them: their sons he slew, but he kept alive their females: for he was indeed a creator of fitnah (i.e., hardship, strife, oppression, etc.).”

 

Hopefully the point here is clear.  We’re not dealing with someone who was merely “astray” and in need of some epiphanic vision to realign his perception, etc.  Paul was not, pre-conversion, someone who, per any known hagiography that has a basis in any real history, -and so he was not someone who was a ripe candidate for guidance.  For all intents and purposes, he was beyond guidance.  He had become one of the muhstahzi’in, -one of the mockers; a Pharaohnic archetype.  And the sunnah, i.e., the tradition or ‘way’ of God in dealing with Pharaohnic archetypes is not to guide them, but rather, to increase them in misguidance (which is in effect to say nothing more than ‘God gives people what they truly desire,’ -so, if they desire evil, God increases them in said evil, likewise if they desire good), -and once they are at full capacity, i.e., at the height of their misguidance and evil, then He destroys them, utterly humiliates the muhstahzi’in in such a way so as to serve as a lesson for later folk (this being a phenomenon that we see not just in religious literature, but in the modern world, before our very eyes.  For apposite examples, let us consider: what was the end of Hitler?  Mussolini?  Muammar Gaddafi?  Hosni Mubarak?  Rafael Trujillo?  Park Chung-Hee?  Samuel Doe?  How many Caesars were stabbed to death in their lust for power?  I think there is a very clear pattern to anyone objective and who has eyes with which to see; it is found both in Sacred History and modern history:  The ‘Pharaohnic archetype’ is almost always led further and further into the pit of iniquity, until, ultimately, he is destroyed).

 

CONCLUSION:  A QUESTION:

And so.  In closing out this particular entry, we may well ask our Christian brethren:  What is more likely to you?  That Paul, at the height of his murderous hatred and persecution of the righteous Christian Church was, inexplicably (and, contrary to the concurrent themes prevalent in the books of religious and secular history alike) led rapturously toward the light, in contravention of everything we’ve seen from God either before or since; -or rather, is it instead more likely that he was led even further toward the darkness, such that the demonic force of the Dajjāl, the Anti-Christ, was able to penetrate him, and use him far more effectively toward his (=the Dajjāl’s) desired aim; namely: the destruction of the true teachings of his arch-enemy, Jesus, the Christ (عليه السلام)?  I shall leave you with that thought to ponder until our next entry (wherein we will explore this question with even more precision, taking a deep-dive, as it were, into history in general, and into Paul’s epistles specifically, showing the heights of his deception, trickery, and exposing the sophistry that he commonly engaged in so as to deceive and oppose Christianity, using every means at his disposal and every stratagem available to him.  I will further demonstrate how, throughout his letters, we see him manifest every single sign of an individual who has been spiritually colonized by the Dajjāl, insha’Allah -God willing!-).

So.  Until then, I leave any and all readers with my heartfelt appreciation for your interest in my research and meandering thoughts.  Be sure and subscribe, if you find yourself so inclined (and, to that end: if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this blog, there should be a “follow” button of some sort, that will send you an email notification whenever I write a new post), -that is, if you haven’t already!

As always, if there is any good in this work, then it is from God.  Only the mistakes are mine.

God Bless, and Peace to all!

Continue to Part III.

 

FOOTNOTES, ADDENDA, AND ERRATA:

[1]  The Tübingen School of theology was founded by German scholar Ferdinand Christian Baur in the 1800’s.  Some of their theories have since fallen out of favor in academia, but new research has confirmed yet other offerings from their particular movement.  One of their positions which still seems reasonable to me is their belief regarding Philemon being pseudographic, describing the subject matter as “so very singular as to arouse our suspicions.”  -Indeed, it is uncharacteristic of Paul, the sophist, to write a 1 page document merely requesting that a slave-master (Philemon) accept a runaway slave (Onesimus) back into his good graces, owing to the fact that the latter (Onesimus) had become Christian at Paul’s hand.  It is unlikely that the historical Paul would have failed to add something about his theology and doctrines, however minimal, as was his wont in all 6 of the other Epistles.

[2]  Historian Dr. Richard Carrier, while holding many beliefs I find silly (he is the leading proponent of the Christ-myth theory), nevertheless has a pretty good argument for rejecting Philemon as pseudo-Pauline.  “I think arguments for Philemon being a forgery are sufficient to warrant at least agnosticism,” he writes on his blog, “as it is such an unusual letter in the corpus, and does have telltale signs of later invention.

[3]  Philemon 1:1 seems to indicate that Paul is dictating the letter to Timothy (by using their names together, -that is, Paul and Timothy, as with previous of his Epistles, such can be safely assumed, owing to the fact that this is how he previously indicated who the amanuensis was to his congregations.  It also implies as much in the Greek:  Paulos desmios Christos -that is, “Paul, a slave of Christ,” kai Timotheos -that is, “and Timothy,” ho adelphos “our brother,” Philēmoni -“to Philemon…”  i.e., it might be translated in more modern vernacular as: “It’s me Paul, and Timothy, and we’re writing to you, Philemon…”), yet, even so, Philemon 1:19 seems to imply that Paul was writing the letter by himself:  “I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand,” he notes.  The word “this” is omitted in the original Greek, such that it more appropriately reads, “I, Paul, egrapsa (ἔγραψα -that is, “did write”) with my own hand.”  Thus there is confusion as to whether this letter was dictated to Timothy, or written by Paul, or some combination.  More probably, this letter has been tampered with throughout the ages, such that the later renditions have produced this incongruity.  Hence my position that Philemon should be omitted from the list of 7 epistles that are generally accepted as having genuine Pauline authorship, owing to this, and other reasons cited in the above article, as well as in the works of other scholars, such as the aforementioned Ferdinand Christian Baur, and Dr. Richard Carrier, to name but a few.

[4]  See:  “Peter, Paul, And Mary Magdalene:  The Followers of Jesus in History And Legend” by Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, pp. 93-94.  Here, the esteemed historian, who does know Koine Greek and, as a Yale scholar, has access to ancient manuscripts, admits what is well known in academia but not in modern churches:  Only 6 or 7 of the Pauline epistles are actually written by Paul of Tarsus.

[5]  Ibid.  pp. 96-99

[6]  Ibid.

[7] Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume, p. 187

[8]  Ibn Ishaq/Guillaume p. 310.

 

Two Qu’ran Verses That Have Been Comforting Me Lately…

 

Just a quick post, insha’Allah (God willing).

….

So, I’ve been thinking about two short sentences in the Qu’ran lately, and in so doing I’ve discovered that they (=meaning, the two sentences I’m about to discuss) are quite comforting, -even though they’re not the most famous or prominent “comfort” verses that are typ. cited or recalled when the average believing Muslim is in need of such solicitude, per se, -this being merely a prolix way of saying that I’m writing this entry because I think these two “verses” (=and I put “verses” in quotes there because only one of these two Qu’ranic sentences under discussion is a full verse; the other being only a partial) -and so these two “verses” I think contain a soothing (and immense!) depth that is woefully overlooked.

 

A GOD THAT IS ALWAYS WATCHING

The first “verse” actually isn’t a verse, at least, not completely; -rather it’s a portion of a verse, a line from the famous ayat-al-kursi; that is, the 255th verse of the 2nd chapter of the Qu’ran, which, while describing God’s Transcendence, states:

 

“…slumber does not overtake Him, nor sleep…”

 

Or so the average translation renders it from the Arabic:

 

(لَا تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلَا نَوْمٌ)
(la ta’khuthuhu sinatun wala nawm)

 

The word translated as “slumber,” –sinatun– more appropriately refers to a type of drowsiness, as if one were nodding off and, in the midst of their somnambulism, was more or less completely unable to pay attention.   The rendering of “sleep,” by contrast, -here referring to the Arabic word nawm– is spot on, however.

So, in essence, the verse is saying that God is never tired; He never nods off, stops paying attention, so on and so forth, -and He most certainly never sleeps.  He is totally attentive to everything at every moment.

To put it another way:  While you’re sleeping, He’s awake, watching over you and protecting you.  If you’re in a difficult situation, it’s not because He’s “fallen asleep at the wheel,” so to speak.  No.  He’s acutely aware of even the smallest detail of your situation.  Because la ta’khuthuhu sinatun wala nawm, –He doesn’t get drowsy, and He never sleeps.  He’s there, always.

When it seems like your enemies have surrounded you, or your reputation is being ruined by slanderers, -or if you’re being taken advantage of by someone with less-than-pure intentions… la ta’khuthuhu sinatun wala nawm.  He’s watching.  He sees with the clearest of perceptions every single thing that they’re doing to you, -and likewise, if you’re being patient, struggling to trust His will, striving to be the best representative of your faith that you can be in such trying moments:  la ta’khuthuhu sinatun wala nawm.

He doesn’t get drowsy, and He never sleeps.

When I ponder on His “ever-watchfulness;” -I don’t know.  I just find some manner of reassurance in it.

 

A GOD THAT DELINEATES

The second verse is, unlike the above, actually a complete verse, here referring to the initial line of Surah Al-Falaq, which is a short chapter of the Qu’ran meant to be recited as a prayer, and is typically rendered in English as:

 

“Say (O suppliants):  ‘I seek refuge in the Lord of the Dawn…'”

 

From the Arabic:

(قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ الْفَلَقِ)
(Qul aAAoothu birabbil-falaq)

 

The word “falaq” -above rendered as “dawn” (and in some translations, as “daybreak”) comes from an etymological root meaning, “to cleave asunder,” or “to split,” -as in, “to split or otherwise create a delineation between darkness and light.”

Many a time I’ve asked myself what God intended to emphasize by referring to His being the Lord of the “dawn,” specifically.  Because, I mean, He could’ve just as easily referred to Himself as the Lord of the Night, or, Lord of Dusk, or any of a hundred other things we imagine God rightfully being Lord over.  -And yet, He specifically chose dawn, –and in so doing, He used a word that, in the Arabic, engenders within one’s mind an image of a differentiation being made; -at heart here is that He is signaling to us that He is the Lord, or Prime Cause, the Actus Purus that initiates this differentiation, this changing from one thing to another (and, in the case of Surah Al-Falaq specifically, the changing of darkness to light).

So, I mean, it’s glaringly obvious to me when I cogitate carefully enough on it that this single verse is pregnant with a multitude of metaphors and meanings.  Darkness, we know, typically signifies or implies all manner of negative things, be it the darkness of oppression, the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of misfortune, the darkness of misguidance, et. al.  -But whatever darkness we find ourselves surrounded by, or trapped within, or up against, &c. &c., -nevertheless: He is Rabbil-Falaq.  The Lord of the Dawn.

To me, this single propaedeutic to the ensuing chapter / prayer is telling us something that is at once so exceedingly important, and yet also, serenely comforting.  God is here apprising humanity of the fact that, whatever it is you may be going through, whatever “darkness” you’re currently mired in, even so: He is the Lord of the Dawn that will eradicate it.  The Rabbil-Falaq.  He is reminding us, -all of us- that life, by His will, is cyclical.  That there will be dark times; gloomy periods wherein we feel lost; Stygian… trapped.  But yet, however dark it may get, however much it seems that the darkness enveloping us is going to win, or last forever –don’t be fooled by that illusion, God is saying.  For I am Rabbil-Falaq.  I am the Lord of the Dawn.

Meaning, in essence, the dawn will come.  He promises us that, unequivocally.

 

 

Paul of Tarsus: A Transmutation of the Anti-Christ. ~Part I of II.

 

A RAMADAN WELL-SPENT:

And so, as is my wont as a Muslim-convert-anchorite-introvert, I spent this past Ramadan largely in seclusion, -which is of course not meant to imply that the entirety of the Holy Month was whittled away with hours of television-watching and video-game-playing or something.  Quite the opposite.  Without getting into too much detail, let’s just say I did the Ramadan novenas (i.e., worship in the last 10 nights), I recited a few more benedictions / litanies than usual (i.e., aḏkār & salawat), I read some Qu’ran, I listened to some Islamic lectures, I perused some literature (finished up The Study Qu’ran -which I’ve been working on for 2 years, and I read Claude Addas’ “The Quest for the Red Sulphur,” as well as Sh. Ramadan Al-Bouti’s “Jurisprudence of the Prophetic Biography,” to be specific), and, perhaps most importantly, I did some cogitating / reflecting, searching my mind, heart, and soul for new spiritual realizations.

One quasi-spiritual insight of particular significance is, I think that I’ve finally made my mind up regarding my beliefs (or, what could be described merely as “my personal take”) on Paul of Tarsus.

 

HISTORICAL CONTEXT:  THE TRITE, COMMONPLACE ‘APOSTLESHIP’ OF PAUL:

As many of my long-time social media pals surely know, Paul has been somewhat of a thorn in my side for a number of reasons.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know, beyond all doubt, that his “version” of Christianity was but one of hundreds of versions that existed at his time, which immediately makes his claim of being the harbinger of the “true gospel” suspect.  For instance, there were Jewish Christians like the Nazarenes and Ebionites, the latter of whom read the Didache and a slightly altered version of the Gospel of Matthew (the Nazarenes and Ebionites held views about Jesus almost identical to modern Muslims, btw); and, besides them, there were also the Gnostics, with their multifarious sects, all of which were, to varying degrees, influenced by an olla podrida of Judaism, Christian Messianism, Neoplatonism, and / or Zoroastrianism, -and so it was that, in the midst of these oceans of different “Christianities” (or, “Christologies”) -there was the Pauline movement, or what I refer to as “Judaeo-Roman Christianity” (I’ve given it this epithet owing to the fact that, if Gnosticism represents a wholly “Roman” Christology, and Ebionism represents a wholly Jewish Christology, then Pauline Christianity was somewhere in the middle).    And when you begin to study these different sects, -particularly the Gnostic sects, one fact becomes salient:  All of these movements had men, typically singular individuals, leading each of them that claimed to be inspired either by God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Angels, or some combination (examples include: Valentinus, Basilides of Alexandria, Dositheos the Samaritan, Simon the Sorcerer, Menander, Marcion of Sinope, Hermes Trismegistus, Cerinthus, Carpocrates of Alexandria, and Mani the Persian Prophet, among others).

Many of these “Prophets” were linked (or, claimed to be linked) to various apostles (Valentinus, for example, was said to be a student of Theudas, who was supposedly a student of Paul, while Basilides of Alexandria claimed to be an inheritor of the Apostle Matthias and a student of Glaucias, who was himself a student of Peter, the Disciple.  Dositheos the Samaritan was supposed to have been a student of John the Baptist, while Marcion was said to have been a student of John the Apostle.  Etc. Etc.  You get the point:  All of the head “prophets” of these various Christian movements claimed Divine inspiration, and, for added credibility, linked themselves with the Apostles).  All of this ultimately means that, in his historical context, Paul of Tarsus was hardly unusual.  He fits right into the early Christian milieu like a well-crafted puzzle piece.  He claimed to be a “prophet,” (or, at least, inspired by Christ), he had his own “gospel,” and, thanks to the Book of Acts, which many historians attest was written with the intention of downplaying the rift between the Paul and the actual disciples of Christ [1], -there you have his linkage to Jesus’ disciples.  In short, he was nothing special in his day.  One of the only reasons, perhaps the only reason, that we even know who he is in modern times is due to the fact that his Christology just happens to be the one that came to dominate, a datum chiefly owing to a number of socio-political realities from his (meaning, Paul’s) time onward.  The Jewish Christians moved into Arabia and Yemen and were later assimilated into Islam, whilst the Gnostics were virtually persecuted out of existence by everyone from the Sassanids of Persia to the Chinese emperors Xuanzong and Wuzong (and the French Monarchy, and the Roman Empire, and Abbasid Caliphate, and the Catholic Church, and the Crusaders, etc. etc.  EVERYONE hated these guys).

 

AYE! HERE’S THE RUB:

So, anyways, that’s what I knew about Paul of Tarsus, going in to Ramadan.  I knew that the likelihood of his Christology being representative of the actual, historical Jesus was, to be blunt, virtually nil.  He was, like a multitude of other Christian leaders of the time, little more than a salesman for his “brand.”  -But there’s one little problem with this theory, which is that he appears to have been very sincere.

Or, we could word it this way:  The man suffered a lot in order to propagate his false “form” of Christianity; traveling everywhere to set up Churches hither and yon, all over the Roman Empire and even into Asia; he was extremely ascetic, often eschewing worldly comforts and even marriage (he seems to have believed that he was in the literal end times, and that Christ was going to return any minute… thus there was no point in getting married or hoarding worldly treasures… but that’s the point, isn’t it?  He wasn’t a hypocrite.  He LIVED his teachings).  Also, lest we forget, the man ultimately faced martyrdom for his beliefs.   So, I mean, when these additional facts about him are considered, it becomes easier to understand why it is that I always had a hard time rectifying his determination and rigor with his undeniable and obvious falsehood. He didn’t seem to have the blasé laxity or moral indifference that we might expect from someone who was knowingly disseminating false teachings for his own personal gain, and he appears to have been tirelessly working toward a goal that he apparently ardently believed in… So, what are we to do with such an obvious contradiction?  I mean, the guy is just incredibly paradoxical, in a lot of ways.

At any rate, long story short, as of this past Ramadan, I’ve developed my own conclusions about him, which are somewhat complex, the conclusions, so, hopefully you’ll bear with me.  And I want to caution before going forward, that I am not saying the theory that I’m about to put forward is the “Islamic position,” full stop.  Rather, it’s my own personal take after years of ratiocination on this very subject.  Also, I should probably mention that this is not going to be a pleasant perusal for any Christian readers… they’ll likely consider this nothing short of a hit piece; a diatribe or a screed, or, if they’re particularly charitable, a work of Islamic apologetics aimed at sullying one of their saints…  Offending Christians is, of course, not my intention.  Generally speaking, I’ve come to believe what I do about Paul for the same reason I’ve come to believe what I do about Islam:  It’s borne out of attempt to be objective, and to carefully consider both historical and spiritual truths, -in this specific instance, to consider said facts for several years, and, finally, after careful mentation, to put forth the best conclusion I can, come what may.  Grant it, this “objectivity” starts from the foundation that Islamic Christology is accurate, and Pauline Christology is false (which is also the result of the selfsame aforementioned mentation) -but, at any rate, do with this information what you will.  Just know that my intention was / is not to offend.

And so, getting on with it then:  The general gist of my theory is that Paul of Tarsus is, quite simply, a transmutation, or, it could also be worded that he’s a man who was “spiritually colonized” by Al-Masīḥ ad-Dajjāl (The Anti-Christ).

If that sounds crazy, remember, I told you to bear with me…

 

THE ‘ETERNALS’

Before fully fleshing out my theory, I must first offer a bit of precursory information re: Islamic ontology with regard to Al-Masīḥ ad-Dajjāl, i.e., the Anti-Christ, specifically what Islamic scripture and it’s mystical tradition consimilarly elucidate.

To start with, unlike in Christian eschatology, Islamic Sacred Scripture is replete with references to the fact that the Anti-Christ is one of “the eternals.”  -Enoch, Elijah, Jesus, Al-Khidr, -these are also considered “eternals” in the Islamic tradition.  “Eternals,” meaning those men whose souls loom so large that they live, in one form or another, for the entirety of human existence.   Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus live in heaven, according to the main body of Islamic scholarship, having yet to experience earthly death, whereas Al-Khidr, or, “The Green One” in English, -who is identified in the Qu’ran as a mystical teacher of Moses, -and so Al-Khidr lives on, not in heaven like the other eternals, but instead he wanders the earth to this day.  Many Islamic saints, such as Ibrahim ibn Adham, Imam Nawawi, and the Andalusian mystic, Muhyideen Ibn ‘Arabi (among many others) claim to have met and conversed with him.  According to one hadith [2] reported by Imam Ahmad, the Holy Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ) is reported to have said that Al-Khidr and Elijah meet once a year in Jerusalem, and another report from Imam Al-Bayhaqi contends that Al-Khidr was present at the funeral of the Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ), and was recognized by the Apostle’s nephew, Ali ibn Abu Talib (رضي الله عنه) [3].

(It should also be noted that, according to several reports, the Prophet Muhammad [ﷺ] was himself offered the chance -by God- to become one of the eternals, but instead chose earthly death so as to complete the communion with his Lord).

So, now we have established that, according to the Islamic normative tradition, there are these eternals, -men of immense spiritual power who exist both in heaven and on earth (the earth-dwellers typically living in semi-occultation), and they do not die, or, at the very least, have preternaturally long lives.

 

ISLAM’S MYSTICAL HERMENEUTICS VIS-À-VIS THE ANTI-CHRIST:

As with most things in the world, be it in literature, spirituality, or reality itself, for every yin there is a yang.  Just as there is sunshine, there is rain; just as there is joy, there is sadness; where there is good, there is also evil; and where there is immense, Godly spiritual power, so there is immense, Satanic spiritual power.  Thus we arrive at the Islamic conception of the Anti-Christ:  Like Jesus, Elijah, Enoch, and Al-Khidr, he is one of the eternals.  According to Islam, Ad-Dajjāl is not a Messianic pretender that appears merely in the end times as if from nowhere (as taught by Christians) but rather, according to us he has always been present as a sort of perverse inversion of what Christ and Khidr and the other eternals represent…  In no Islamic text is this more salient than in what’s known as “Al-Hadith Al-Jassasaah,” -an authentic, if singular report narrated by the hadith master Imam Muslim, and also found in other hadith works, such as At-Tirmidhi and the like.

 

THE STRANGE ENCOUNTER OF TAMEEM AD-DAARI: 

In this peculiar, aforementioned narration, the Holy Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ) accepts the conversion to Islam of an Arab Christian named Tameem Ad-Daari who has just returned from a seafaring voyage that he’d taken along with some men from Iraq and Yemen… the reason for Tameem’s conversion, per the report, has to do with his bizarre encounter with the actual Anti-Christ, who, according to Tameem, confirmed the Apostleship of Muhammad (ﷺ).  The gist of the hadith states that, during their oceanic voyage, the ship was blown off course by series of violent storms that left the crew lost and adrift for an entire month.  Eventually, spotting a small island, Tameem and his men boarded rowboats, and, reaching the islet at sunset, were immediately approached by a hirsute, humanoid creature.  In frightful terror, the men yowled out an Arabic expression denoting the approach of a bad or unnerving omen, namely: “Wayl!” (وَيْل), or, in English, “Woe!” -and, taken aback, perhaps not knowing what to do, they speak to this being, asking it what it is.  The creature responds, “I am Al-Jassaasaah!”  -Which is a word / term / name none of the men have heard of before.  They inquire as to its meaning, but the creature doesn’t answer them.  Rather than defining or explaining what Al-Jassaasaah means, the entity instead diverts their attention to a nearby temple, informing them that it houses some mysterious individual that seeks to know about these new arrivals.  Tameem later informs the Apostle (ﷺ) that he and his companions were terrified of entering the prenominate temple, lest they find therein some demon.

At any rate (and all fears notwithstanding) they mustered their courage and proceeded, entering and finding that the temple in question housed a large, muscular man bound with chains.  This selfsame man makes a number of inquiries, chiefly, whether the date-palm trees of a certain city in northern Palestine were still bearing fruit, whether the Sea of Galilee still contained water, and whether or not the ‘unlettered Prophet’ (i.e., Muhammad) had yet moved from Mecca to Medina.  And so.  After answering his questions, the mysterious man informed Tameem and his coterie that he was in fact Ad-Dajjāl (the Anti-Christ), and that he was not yet permitted to emerge due to the prerequisite signs not yet being fulfilled (the signs in question being those hinted at by his questions: i.e., that the date-palms of northern Palestine would no longer bear fruit and the Sea of Galilee would dry up, among other things).  Most likely still in a state of awe and terror, Tameem and his men flee the island, return to their ship, and eventually find their way back home.  We’re left to assume that the Anti-Christ’s mention of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) precipitated At-Tameem’s conversion to Islam, who, upon returning to Arabia, immediately went to the Holy Apostle and related the story to him.  The Prophet responded by striking the pulpit with his staff and asking his disciples that were present, “Did I not tell you this before?” (Referring to the reality of the Anti-Christ).  They affirmed, whereupon the Apostle informed Tameem that he appreciated the story due to the fact that it confirmed what he’d already been teaching his own disciples.  And so ends the hadith, which is found in one of the most authentic collections of Islamic traditions, namely, Sahih al-Bukhari.

As to the location of this mysterious island, and whether it is a place in this temporal world as we know it, or whether it is located within some transposed reality that Tameem and his men were given access to by the Lord of the Worlds so as to serve as a teaching tool to later generations, -God knows and we don’t know.  It’s largely irrelevant anyways.  The main point here is not the location of the island or whether or not the Anti-Christ is on the actual earth or is instead hidden via some form of occultation; rather the crux of the message is that the Anti-Christ has a manifest reality that is always present in this world.  Like his spiritual opposites, -be they Prophets such as Elijah, Enoch, or Jesus, -or be they Saints of profound spiritual immensity such as Al-Khidr, -and so, like them, the Anti-Christ is a powerful soul, albeit a dark soul; and he represents a deviant mimicry of the true eternals.  Every power they have, he also has, but whereas the Godly eternals derive their power from Al-Haqq (the Divine Truth), the Anti-Christ derives his from Satan.  To further clarify:  If Jesus, Enoch, Al-Khidr, and the like, are “eternals” by the spiritual power of God, then Ad-Dajjāl is also an eternal, but by the spiritual power of Satan.  If the Prophets and Saints perform miracles by the power of God, then Ad-Dajjāl does so as well, but by the power of Iblees (The Devil).  If the Prophets and Saints have signs that adumbrate their arrival owing to God’s Mercy and His intent to aid in the guidance of mankind, then Ad-Dajjāl likewise has signs that foreshadow his arrival, although his signs serve to deceive rather than to guide.  If the Prophets and Saints do good to please God and guide mankind aright, then Ad-Dajjāl likewise will do good, except he does so to mislead humanity.  Most importantly (and most relevantly to this essay):  If the Prophets and Saints can manifest their pneumatic power upon their disciples, purifying their souls, whereby remaining spiritually connected to them, enabling and commissioning them in the ability to perform miracles, obtain gnosis, and gain insights, then, so too does Ad-Dajjāl have this same spiritual power, -save that his spiritual power is aided by demons and his own Satanic soul, unlike the spiritual power of the Saints and Prophets, which is aided by angelic and Godly emanations.

To put it succinctly:  For as long as men have been on this earth, Ad-Dajjāl has been spiritually connected to some from among them (or, us).  He has his disciples onto which he projects his spiritual energy, revealing to them his own corrupt insights, allowing some to perform miracles or prophesy about the future, and inspiring them with his own brand of heretical gnosis.  Eventually, the souls of such individuals may become subsumed by his reality, such that they are “spiritually colonized” by the Anti-Christ… i.e., their souls are literally transmuted by his.  In other instances, it is as if two souls dwell in one body; sometimes the man’s soul is dominant, and an instant later, the Dajjālic force takes over…

 

SAF IBN SAYYAD:  A ‘DAJJĀLIC TRANSMUTATION’ DURING THE LIFE OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD (ﷺ):

The first proof of the above proposition that we’ll be dealing with is an enigmatic figure mentioned extensively in the hadith literature by the name of Saf Ibn Sayyad.  His first contact with the Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ) is when he is still a child, just before his adolescence (i.e., at around the age of 10 or 11).  Sahih Bukhari narrates:

“Umar set out along with the Apostle and a retinue of disciples toward Ibn Sayyad and they came upon him playing with the boys near the hillocks of Bani Mughala.  Ibn Sayyad at that time was nearing puberty and did not notice (us) until the Prophet stroked him with his hand and said to him, ‘Do you testify that I am God’s Apostle?’  Ibn Sayyad looked at him and said, ‘I testify that you are the Messenger of illiterates.’  (So) then Ibn Sayyad asked the Holy Apostle (ﷺ), ‘Do you testify that I am God’s Apostle?’  -And so the Prophet (ﷺ) refuted it and said, “I believe in God and His (True) Apostles.”  Then he said (to Ibn Sayyad), “What are you thinking?”  To which Ibn Sayyad answered, ‘True people and liars visit me.’  The Prophet said (to that):  ‘You have been confused as to this matter.’  Then the Prophet said to him, ‘I have kept something (in my mind) for you, (can you tell me what it is?)’  Ibn Sayyad said, ‘It is Al-Dukh (the smoke).’  Thereupon the Apostle (ﷺ) said, ‘Let you be in ignominy (disgrace; dishonour; public contempt). You cannot cross your limits!’” [4]

So the first encounter the Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ) had with Ibn Sayyad, when the latter was but a child, can only be described as disturbingly cryptic.  Of particular note is that Ibn Sayyad claimed Prophethood, -which is a trait of what we might term a “lesser Dajjāl,” as the Holy Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ) attested in a well-known report, “The last hour will not be established until… about 30 Dajjal’s appear, and each of them will claim to be God’s Apostle…”  So we learn from this hadith, when compared to the Prophet’s first encounter with Ibn Sayyad, that some nascent spiritual energy from the False Messiah was already beginning to subsume the boy’s soul, which was causing him to falsely claim Prophesy.  We may also consider the statement the Prophet made to Saf at the end of the hadith: “You cannot cross your limits!”  -The only possible interpretation of this being that the Apostle was speaking to the Dajjālic Spirit that was present within Ibn Sayyad, informing him that, try as he might to transmute the boy’s personality, even so, the prerequisite signs had yet to be fulfilled, and thus he -meaning the Anti-Christ, would not be able to fully manifest.

Another interesting encounter occurs later on, which clarifies the point beyond all doubt.  In a narration in Sahih Muslim [5], which takes place well after the earthly death of the Holy Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ), we find Saf Ibn Sayyad, now a grown man, conversing with a disciple of the Prophet, Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri (رضي الله عنه).  It appears, based on the narration, that Ibn Sayyad did indeed embrace Islam eventually, as Abu Sa’id mentions that the two of them had been traveling with a group of Muslims, and were just returning from performing the pilgrimage to Mecca.  Noticing that Abu Sa’id is reticent and terse with him, Ibn Sayyad elucidates a number of points in order to disprove the (apparently widespread) belief among the disciples that he might be the Anti-Christ, to such an extent that Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri begins to relent, saying, “I was about to accept the excuses put forth by him, but then he (Ibn Sayyad) said, ‘I know the place where he will be born, and where he is now.’” -Whereupon Abu Sa’id uttered imprecations at him.

In another narration relating the same incident, after Ibn Sayyad intimates that he knows the birthplace and current whereabouts of the Anti-Christ, Abu Sa’id then asks him, “Would you be pleased if (the two of you) were the same person?”  To Which Ibn Sayyad replied, “If he offers me that, I will not refuse it.”  [6]

This narration makes it clear beyond all doubt that Ibn Sayyad was in spiritual commune with the Dajjāl’s spiritual energy.  Other narrations go so far as to mention that, toward the end of his life, he even began to change physically, such that he began to look like the Anti-Christ as described by the Prophet (as the Holy Apostle Muhammad had said that Ad-Dajjāl will be blind in one eye, and that the particular eye in question will be glaucous as if a floating grape [7].  In a hadith in Sahih Muslim, a disciple later notices that Ibn Sayyad’s eye began to swell in a similar fashion [8]).

 

A TRANSMUTATION DURING THE LIFE OF MOSES:  AS-SAMĪRI:

If the above narrative vis-à-vis Saf Ibn Sayyad seems anomalous or strange to some readers, then a careful reading of the Qu’ran will prove that Saf was hardly the first Dajjālic transmutation.  We see also in the story of the Israelites’ worship of the golden calf that the Qu’ran includes details that are omitted from the Biblical account:  Chief among these is that the entire ordeal (meaning, the worship of an idol) was instigated, not by Moses’ brother Aaron (as it states in the Bible), but rather, by a mysterious individual identified only as “As-Samīri.”

According to the Islamic version of the story, it was during Moses’ 40-day interlocution with God on Mount Sinai that Samīri had a mystical vision in which he witnessed the Angel Gabriel riding what is known in the Islamic exegetical tradition as al faras al-ayāt, or “the steed of life,” -a beast that was invisible to everyone except for Moses, a Prophet, and yet for some reason Samīri was likewise able to witness it.  This selfsame horse was leaving in its wake a trail of glistering hoof prints embossed within the powdery dust upon which it trod (again, something which no one else -save for Moses and Samīri- could see).  Samīri thus took a handful of this dust, and from said dust -along with the jewelry of the Israelites- crafted the golden calf, and subsequently deceived those present into worshiping it as a deity.  He was able to accomplish his aim in this regard by supernatural means, as the dust whereupon the angelic horse had cantered somehow obtained life-giving powers; a fact which Samīri -and Samīri alone- was able to intuit [9].  Thus the Qu’ranic claim that the golden calf actually made a sound as though it were a living creature [per Q. 20:88], and some commentators have gone so far as to claim that it eventually metamorphosed from a golden statue into a real cow [10].  -These so-called miraculous wonders convinced the Israelites that the golden calf was, in fact, the God of Moses, and, against the protests of Aaron, they began to worship it as such.

Upon Moses’ return, he immediately flies into a rage (naturally), and, after being directed toward the truly guilty party, he begins interrogating Samīri, asking him what prompted him to do what he did, to which Samīri replies rather callously:

(“وَكَذَٰلِكَ سَوَّلَتْ لِي نَفْسِي“)

“My inner self was lured (to do so).”  (Q. 20:96).

The question any careful-thinking Muslim would do well to ask themselves is, how is it that Samīri was able to witness the realities of the unseen realm (i.e., the Angel Gabriel and al faras al-ayāt, -“the steed of life”), -and was further able to intuit how to use this information in order to perform what in effect constitutes a miracle?  No other Israelite, -excepting Moses, of course- was granted such power.  Surely the phenomenon of the “living” calf statue was not, and unequivocally could not be a Godly marvel, -as the intent was to deceive rather than guide.  Thus, after a careful noetic study of the narrative as a whole, we arrive at the only possible answer, namely that, like Saf Ibn Sayyad who was to come after him, Samīri represents a partial transmutation of the Dajjāl.  He was given spiritual gnosis -but it was a gnosis of a dark and perverted nature, the aim of which was to lead human beings astray.

This becomes more evident when examining the reason he puts forth to Moses for his actions:  “My inner self was lured,” he says.  -This terse and somewhat oblique excuse seemingly indicates that he did what he did, at least to some degree, against his own will… e.g., as if spiritually colonized.

 

CONCLUSIONS:

From these two narratives:  That of As-Samīri and Saf ibn Sayyad, we might well deduce that, perhaps, every Prophet (or nearly every Prophet) was either accompanied by, or, in the case of Jesus, immediately preceded by, a transmutation of the Anti-Christ…  If we take Samīri and Ibn Sayyad as prototypes or, perhaps more correctly, archetypes, then a few congruent themes emerge:  1)  The transmuted individuals are not outwardly enemies of their respective Prophets, but rather appear to be among their followers [recall that the aim of Ad-Dajjāl is to lead astray moreso than oppose].  2)  They perform miracles, -but these miracles misguide rather than guide [or at least, that is their aim].  3)  The transmuted individual may or may not be fully “colonized,” -and thus, if only “partially colonized,” they may, at times, seem to be acting of their own accord, -peradventure they could even conceivably appear to be what we might call “righteous,” while at other times they are acting intently upon their desire to beguile the immediate followers / disciples of the Prophet of their age -whoever that Prophet happens to be.

It is my contention, which I will set about proving more intently in the 2nd part of this entry, that Paul of Tarsus was one such transmutation.  Just as Moses was plagued by As-Samīri who led his followers astray, and just as our Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) & his followers were annoyed by Saf ibn Sayyad (who was much less successful in his attempts to mislead than either Samīri or Paul, it should be noted), so too were the followers of Jesus hoodwinked by their “spiritually colonized’ agent of the Anti-Christ…  The only real difference(s) from Samiri and Saf on the one end, and Paul of Tarsus on the other, is that Paul of Tarsus was much more successful than any of his archetypical predecessors (again, as we shall see, insha’Allah -God willing), and also: his appearance was slightly after the Prophet of his age (meaning, Jesus), rather than during his lifetime.

So, in short, this essay is “to be continued,” -God willing- so be sure and check back for future installments…

[Note Re: checking back for future installments:  If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this blog, there should be a “follow” button of some sort, that will send you an email notification whenever I write a new post… which isn’t that often, btw].

 

Footnotes, Errata, & Addenda

[1]  The earliest complete manuscript of the book of Acts dates from the 4th century, while fragments exist from the 3rd century.  It is an extremely late addition to the Biblical canon, and so, authorial intent, -which obviously was not to present an accurate history since the author, whoever he was, was in no way an eyewitness, needs to be scrutinized.  The fact that Acts 15 contradicts Paul’s own account of the Council of Jerusalem in Galatians 2, and that the Book of Acts (in its present form) seems to “soften the blow” of the clash -at least as when compared to Paul’s fiery denunciations, indicates that Acts was written with a rather obvious intention:  To smooth out the hard edges and blur the clearly delineated lines of internecine (and largely doctrinal) conflict that existed between Paul of Tarsus and the actual disciples of Christ.

[2]  Hadith:  A traditional report of the sayings, actions, and / or tacit approvals of the Holy Apostle Muhammad ().  This particular tradition is reported in Imam Ahmad’s “Kitab Az-Zuhd.”

[3] Per Ibn al-Jazari, 1994, p. 228

[4] Sahih Bukhari 002.023.437

[5] Sahih Muslim 041.6996

[6] Sahih Muslim 041.6995

[7] Al-Bukhaari, no. 6508, among other places.

[8] Sahih Muslim 041.7004

[9] One can piece together the story as I’ve put it here by an agglomeration of Q. 20:81-97, and the tafsir of these same verses by Imam Al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, and Al-Zamakhshari, as well as other Qu’ranic mentions of al-Samiri, such as Q. 7:148.

[10] According to Al-Zamakshari’s commentary of Surah 20.

 

 

Book Excerpt: “Divine ‘Threats’ as the Highest Form of Divine Love.”

 

The following is an excerpt from a book I am working on, tentatively titled, “Allah is Love.”  As to where, in the final version of this upcoming book, this chapter will ultimately be placed, God knows, -but for now it is my working “first chapter.”  It will, of course, be prefaced by an introduction and, perhaps, some other as-of-yet unknown propaeduetics, so keep that in mind.  It should also be remembered that this is a working 1st draft, and as such, should be perused with forgiving eyes.  Any feedback is both encouraged and appreciated, however.

 

Allah is Love

 

I
Divine ‘Threats’ as the Highest Form of Divine Love

 

It is posited by some from among our Christian brethren that their conception of God as Loving ‘Father’ appeals more to the natural inclinations and psychological needs of mankind.  Human beings, they claim, naturally seek mercy and clemency from any figure that may have authority over them, especially if that authority figure is as God is, namely, one imbued with immense power.  Extreme, obsessive fear with regard to God, many Christians and Atheists would say, is extremely damaging, psychologically speaking, and so it is that this concept of maintaining a ‘quivering terror’ of an Inconceivable and Transcendent God has turned so many in the West away from religion.  As a Muslim, I don’t dispute any of this.

That said, I have come to believe that there is an “Islamic” answer to the Western / Christian notion that “God as Loving Father” is the superior model and / or only reasonable solution to the malaise of modern man, and it is in exploring this Islamic conception of God, properly and carefully, that we’ll see how it is that Allah, as He describes Himself in Islamic Sacred Scripture, represents the highest pinnacle of Divine Love, Compassion, Mercy, and Tenderness, -moreso perhaps than even the average Muslim realizes.

Speaking to this point, it should be noted that the word ‘Father’ as a Divine Epithet is, unlike in the Bible, wholly absent in the Qu’ran.  This no doubt leads many to assume (wrongly, as we shall see) that the primary imago of the Divine being conveyed is essentially one of Power and Transcendence.  Indeed, even the earliest Surahs (or, chapters) of the Qu’ran are replete with what God Himself refers to as the Divine ‘threat.’ (وَعِيدِ) [See: Q. 50:45].   For example, Surah Al-‘Ala, currently the 87th chapter of the Qu’ran in terms of placement, was in fact one of the earliest to be revealed, with most historians positing that it was the 7th chapter dictated by Muhammad (ﷺ) to his disciples, i.e., it is from the extremely early Meccan period.  Yet, despite its early date, we see within it a clear and unambiguous Divine ‘threat,’ namely:  “So remind (O Muhammad), if reminding should benefit.  He who fears (God) will be reminded.  –but the wretched one will avoid it.  He who will enter and burn in the greatest fire…”  (Q. 87:9-12).  This might lead one to conclude, then, that God’s tone toward His creatures was antagonistic from the outset, and that He was primarily concerned with conveying His Transcendence and His ability to punish.  Furthermore, by taking such facts and references at face value, it becomes easy to see how it is that Christian Orientalists, who claim that their religion speaks of God as a Loving Father, would likewise conclude that their understanding of the Divine is more suitable, meaning, more compassionate and loving, than the Islamic conception.

A few points can be made in this regard, however: First, despite it’s early date, Surah Al-‘Ala was nevertheless preceded by a minimum of 6 other chapters of the Qu’ran (and this is if the early Islamic historiographers have it correct… it’s possible that Surah Al-‘Ala is even later in terms of chronology), -and even so, the Prophetic biographies and Qu’ranic exegetes tell us that some of the previous 6 surahs were separated by several year’s worth of ‘Divine Silence,’ wherein God said nothing, and so the teachings, whatever they were at that time, were solely Muhammad’s (ﷺ).  When we look to the content of the prior 6 surahs then, we see a much more moderated tone.

Take for instance the very first verses of the Qu’ran to be revealed according to virtually all historians, that is, the first 5 verses of Surah al-Alaaq (it is agreed upon by most scholars that the rest of the surah, verses 6-19, were revealed at a later date).  The theme of these initial ayat are fairly basic.  They discuss God as the Creator, and mention that He, meaning God, teaches man.  They also call to mind that God is Al-Akram, or, “The Most Generous.”  (Q. 96:4).  In other words, the first ‘Islamic’ communiqué from God to man simply identifies the Speaker of this new revelation (i.e., God), and mentions, at least implicitly, His Mercy, in that He has created man with the capacity to learn new things.  While mentioning His role as the teacher of man, God reminds us in verse 5 that this is from His Attribute of Generosity.  The point here being that God is, in fact, not antagonistic in the Qu’ran initially, but rather He begins the religion of Islam, as seen by this introductory revelation to Muhammad (ﷺ), by speaking to humanity very much in the manner of a loving parent attempting to remind an ungrateful child of his (meaning, the parent’s) beneficence.  As if to say, “You’ve not been fair with me, my child!  Don’t you realize I’ve done such and such for you, out of nothing but care and compassion?

Here it might do well to mention that Islamic theologians and mystics have traditionally understood God through what’s known as the Asma wal Siffaat, or “The Divine Names and Attributes” that are mentioned in Islamic Sacred Scripture.  Islamic Orthodoxy has, for all intents and purposes, “divided” the Divine Names into two basic categories:  The Jalaali, or Transcendent Names –which are those Names / Attributes that describe His Power, Might, and Ability to Punish, and the Jamaali or ‘Beautiful’ Names, -that is, those Names / Attributes which describe His Nearness, Intimate Care, and Loving Attention for creation.  It’s interesting to note that within these first 5 verses of the Qu’ran ever to be revealed to Muhammad (ﷺ), i.e., those of the aforementioned Surah Al-Alaaq, we find one of the Jamaali or ‘Beautiful’ Names:  Al-Akram, which is usually translated as The Most Generous.  It is clear, then, that God’s first intent was to speak to man gently, and call mankind to come to know and worship his Lord with a soft, tender reminder befitting a Loving God.

As for the next two surahs to be revealed, Al-Muzzamil and Al-Mudathir, they are simply re-affirming Muhammad’s initial vision and confirming his prophethood (and, like Surah Al-Alaaq, it is speculated by most authorities that the later portions of these chapters were not part of the originals, but were revealed to Muhammad at a later date, so we may dispense with analyzing them too much).  Later, a short prayer, Al-Fatiha was revealed (which calls attention to God’s Mercy a total of 4 times in just 7 short verses), followed by Al-Lahab, a short surah that was delivered in response to an evil individual who attempted to shout Muhammad down at every stratagem, and who further assaulted him on a number of occasions (i.e., it was in reference to a very specific instance, and not necessarily related to a universal principle regarding God per se).  Finally, then, we come to the 6th chapter to be revealed chronologically, Al-Qalaam, and here we see the first mention of a Divine threat in v. 16 that could possibly be interpreted universally, i.e., as “antagonistic” toward man: “We will brand him upon the snout!”  -Contextually however, and like Al-Lahab before it, it’s obviously referring to a particular individual (most commentators say it is in reference to Walid ibn Mughirah, one of the vilest enemies of the Prophet Muhammad [ﷺ], and one of the few who actually physically assaulted him).  Even if we were to interpret v. 16 as a ‘universal threat,’ it’s still interesting to note that many Orientalists, such as George Sale, put the revelation of Al-Qalaam as late as 4 years after the initial revelation of Surah al-‘Alaaq.

The point in highlighting all of this is to clarify that the initial revelations of the Qu’ran (which comprise the first 4 years of the Prophetic mission) absolutely were not, by any stretch of the imagination, conveying God’s anger to humanity, but rather were meant to establish a few basic truths, namely:  There is only one God, and that this God created human beings.  Furthermore, these introductory verses convey that God’s creative act was primarily motivated by Mercy and Generosity, and furthermore, these created human beings should, per these initial revelations, pray to God and be aware of the fact that they will, one day, be judged for their actions.  Aside from a few rebukes directed acutely at two specific individuals, the message is largely innocuous, benign, and even benevolent in tone.  It’s not until the 7th revelation from God, in the 4th (or maybe even 5th) year of Muhammad’s (ﷺ) Prophetic call that God reveals the first ‘antagonistic’ verses that seem to apply in a more general sense.  Here I’m referring to the prenominate Surah Al-‘Alaa and its mention of Hell for unbelievers, in v. 11-12.  The question we may well ask, then, is what changed, if anything?

Unfortunately, answering this question is quite difficult since any reliable details regarding the early Meccan period of the Apostle Muhammad’s (ﷺ) life are somewhat scant.  It is attested by virtually all historians that the first revelation of Surah Al-Alaaq occurred in 610 A.D.  We also know that by 615 A.D. (shortly after the 7th chronological revelation of Surah Al-‘Alaa), the persecution of the Muslims had become so unbearable that Muhammad (ﷺ) sent some 80 of his followers to the Kingdom of Axum (an area that was comprised of what is today parts of Ethiopia and Eritrea) to avoid the burdens of Pagan oppression that had, by that point in early Muslim history, become unbearable.  From these two facts alone we can assume with some certainty that the existent tyranny had metamorphosed from being merely the exceptional acts of a few evil individuals, to instead becoming the mainstay of the Pagan Meccan’s response to God and Muhammad (ﷺ) in tota, and this despite the fact that those initial Qu’ranic revelations were quite benign.  The fact that the Qu’ran already had to address two specific oppressors individually, and from such an inchoate period (here I’m referring to the aforementioned Abu Lahab and Walid ibn Mughirah), only supports the point: the fact is, despite the rather innocuous, and even compassionate tone of the earliest revelations of the Qu’ran, nevertheless the response of the Meccan idolaters was naught but to slander Muhammad (ﷺ) and his followers, and to take to mockery, harassment, assaults, and intense oppression, -oppression that, per the earliest Muslim authorities, eventually led to physical torture and murder of a number of innocent Muslims.  And yet, despite this, God’s revelations to Muhammad (ﷺ) remained moderate in tone for a full four or five years.  Another way to put this would be: it seems clear that the ‘mood’ of revelation changed, topic-wise, from God’s Generosity and Mercy to that of His Transcendence and Might, only after it became clear that the Pagans were intent on being murderously obstinate.  So it was, then, that finally God began to mention His ‘threats’ in Surah Al-‘Alaa.

There are many insights into the characteristics of God that the Muslim may glean from the above mentioned facts.  For starters, it’s obvious that these ‘harsh’ verses of the Qu’ran are not meant to convey that God is hostile to humanity en masse, -if this were the case then we would expect to see more antagonism toward mankind in those earlier revelations that predate Surah Al-‘Alaa.  Rather He speaks to human beings, initially, much like the ‘Loving Father’ that Christians conceptualize, and like any good father, God wishes to protect His beloved children.  He indeed does so by first issuing powerful threats against any that would harm His servants.  So effective are these ‘threat’ verses that we are told, that on one occasion, that one from among the bitterest enemies of the Prophet, a vile creature named ‘Utbah ibn Rabi’ah, had overheard the Apostle (ﷺ) reciting some verses from Surah Al-Fussilat, and when the oration reached verse 13, “…But if they turn away, then say,I have warned you of a thunderbolt like the thunderbolt that struck ‘Aad and Thamud,’” -it was then that ‘Utbah, in abject terror, placed his hand over the Prophet’s mouth and said, whilst trembling, “Please stop!  Please stop!  Is there not anything else you could say to me apart from this!?”  -And so here we understand the mechanism of these so-called Divine ‘threats,’ in that they are not meant to be understood as God’s angry antagonism toward mankind, but rather as the stern warnings of a loving father aimed at protecting and defending His beloved children whom were in harm’s way!

Were the Divine, Loving Mercy (ArRahma) to end on that thought, it would be sufficient enough to soften our hearts toward God and cause us to fall in love with Him, and yet we must also consider that the true purpose of any given warning is but to prevent the one being warned from falling into danger.  In the case of God’s stern warnings in the Qu’ran then, we see that they not only serve as a means to occlude the undue oppression of His beloved servants, but also as a means to shatter the stone-hearted arrogance of the oppressors, in the hopes that they will, of their own free will and volition, give up their oppression and religious bigotry, and instead choose to walk upon the path of salvation and felicity.  Or, to put it another way; the ‘threats’ are but another manifestation of God’s Mercy, even for the tyrants, as it is known that there are some types of intransigent folk that will not act right unless threatened in an ‘authoritarian’ manner.

So it is that we see the truth of the matter:  That God’s first ‘outreach’ to humanity, as it were, was to simply reveal a few basic facts in the form of a gentle, benevolent reminder vis-à-vis His Unicity, His Generosity, et. al.  However, when that beautiful call was met with oppressive hostility on behalf of the Qurayshite pagans, only then did God begin to remind human beings of His Transcendence and Power.  And yet, even these “warnings” were naught but a manifestation of His sublime Kindness and Mercy for both oppressed and oppressor alike!  Where, then, can a more Loving, Compassionate conception of the Divine be found?

 

 

Muhyideen Ibn ‘Arabi’s Conception of Allāh’s “Radical Mercy.”

 

Just a quick entry….

 

I.  Ibn ‘Arabi on ‘Intention,’ (niyyah):

As I was reading Vol. II of Chodkiewicz’s (et. al.) translation of Al-Futuhat Al-Makkiyyah (The Meccan Openings) last week, I came across this interesting passage wherein Ibn ‘Arabi writes the following:

 

“God created the (free) will in the soul so that it might want what God wants it to do or not to do without transgressing the limits of the Lawgiver…  (However) the will occasionally experiences an intense desire for something with no thought to the Legal rules concerning performing or abstaining from the act in question, to the point that, even if the legal prescription and the act performed happen to coincide, being faithful to the Law is not the first priority (of the individual in question)…”

 

So, just for clarity, the Shaykh here is referring to someone who just incidentally ‘happens’ to do something that is in accord with Sacred Law, but doesn’t do so with the intention of being obedient (since the ruling is of no consequence to him / her), rather their intention is merely to fulfill their desire.  The Shaykh continues:

 

“…this is just a case of fortuitous coincidence with what the Lawgiver commanded.  Such an individual performs the action in question because he wishes to, not because a rule has been decreed by the Lawgiver.  So God will not praise the individual unless he asked himself prior to satisfying his desire if it was praiseworthy in the eyes of the Law, and if he performed the action only after a Mufti’s response (to his inquiry in the matter) was that the Lawgiver judged that on this issue there was permission, recommendation, or obligation, and only then did he act.  At this point it is a legal judgment that coincides with desire, and the interested party will be rewarded (by God) for submitting to it…”

 

Toward the end of the above citation, the Shaykh changes course, and describes how a personal desire, when acted upon by an individual, can actually be rewarded by God, -but he’s careful to note that this only happens if they consulted the Law first… in this case it is their obedience and scrupulousness that is rewarded by God, even though they are, in essence, fulfilling a desire.

 

II.  Ibn Arabi on God Protecting / Forgiving You, Even While in the Midst of Your Sin:

From here, Ibn ‘Arabi begins to relate one of the most hopeful, moving, and eloquent exhortations regarding God’s Infinite Mercy (according to Islamic teachings) that I may have ever read:

 

“My friend, consider your soul’s desires, and see what their status is in regard to the Law.  If the Law proscribes (or allows) that you act on them, then act on them.  If, on the other hand, it proscribes that you do nothing of the sort, then refrain…  If, however, after asking yourself and observing that, from a legal perspective, you should abstain, (nevertheless) your desire gets the better of you and you transgress, I am convinced that on this point you are in the wrong, but that you will nevertheless be rewarded for a variety of reasons:  Because you asked yourself about the legal status of the issue before taking action; because your belief in the Law was sufficiently strong that you wondered about its stance on the issue; because you were convinced, after knowing that the action was forbidden, that it should be rejected; because you based your stance (i.e., committing the sin) on the fact that God is All-Forgiving and All-Merciful, that He wipes away sins and forgives offenses, and that you had, in this case, a good opinion (Husn Al-Dhann) of God…” 

 

So… when I read that, I must admit, I was floored.  Mainly because our modern Shayookh, Imams, Mufti’s, Da’i’s, et. al., are, it seems to me, so concerned with how terrible it is that Muslims actually sometimes commit sins, that they could never even conceive of doing what Ibn ‘Arabi has done here, meaning they rarely, if ever, elucidate for us the many rewards that God bestows upon mindful Muslims even when they commit a transgression…  It’s perhaps for this reason that, in other places in the Futuhat, Ibn ‘Arabi doesn’t shy away from stating outright that the fuqaha (i.e., Doctors of the Law) have “made narrow what is wide,” (referring to God’s Mercy, as well as a hadith that uses similar wording) [1].

The above excerpt hearkens back to something I once heard attributed to Al-Hassan Al-Basri, who reportedly divided sins into two general types, saying, “If you see a man commit a sin from desire, then keep hope alive for him, for Adam sinned from desire and was forgiven.  If you see a man commit a sin from arrogance, then worry for him, for Iblees sinned out of arrogance and was cursed.[2]  -With this in mind, it appears that Ibn ‘Arabi is simply fleshing out this concept more fully in the Futuhat, demarcating how arrogance (i.e., shunning Sacred Law) renders even a good deed into something worthless, while humility, even if it’s a component of disobedience, brings supernumerary rewards from a Merciful God, and that yes, this Divine reward comes even in the midst of that sin…  Little wonder then, why some of the fuqaha from past times and present have beefed with the Shaykh Al-Akbar.

So.  If the beautiful elucidation of God’s all-encompassing Mercy had stopped there, it would’ve been more than sufficient to warm our hearts and draw us near to God, but the Shaykh continues taking us on this bewildering journey, writing the following:

 

“There are many reasons you will be rewarded in spite of your disobedience, since you are guilty from only one point of view: that of committing an act that was only the desire of the soul.  To these reasons (for your reward in the midst of sin) is added that the act afflicted you, since, as the Messenger (ﷺ) said to God, ‘The believer is he whose good actions give him joy and whose bad actions afflict him![3] …and out of all of this God has made a way for the believer to push away Satan, who embellishes in men’s eyes the villainy of his acts.  In truth, Satan pushes us toward wickedness while God promises forgiveness.  That (forgiveness) is the veil that He (God) places between the rebellious believer and the disbelief that comes upon him the moment that he commits an act of disobedience, so that he firmly believes that the act is an act of disobedience and he does not profess the licitness of what God has forbidden…  This all takes place through the blessings of this (Divine) veil…” 

 

So in other words, if one finds his or herself committing a sin, all the while believing it is a sin, then they should take this as a sign of God’s having Mercy on us even in the midst of our disobedience, and veiling us from falling into absolute kufr (i.e., making licit what God has declared forbidden, or vice versa, which is technically “disbelief” / rejection of Islam, per Islamic authorities… see: Q. 16:116, 10:59, & 5:87).  Meaning, it’s not the sin itself that should perturb us, per se, but rather how we view it… whether we accept it as a sin, and admit it, or whether we try to prevaricate, make excuses for ourselves, or try to justify our actions with some sort of mental gymnastics or absurd scriptural interpretations, &c. &c.  So, the overall point is, for the disobedient believer this passage is one of immense hope… for those that attempt to justify wickedness and compromise core Islamic beliefs / positions, however… it’s a dangerous warning, and this shouldn’t be ignored or danced around.

Still, that said, I’m writing this with an intended audience of general Muslim believers, and thus with the assumption that the overall crux of Ibn ‘Arabi’s message here is one of enlightening hope for us…

 

III.  Further Ruminations on Divine Love / Mercy:

The Shaykh concludes, with perhaps his most profound point yet:

 

“God said, ‘And God promises you forgiveness coming from Him, and grace…’ (Q. 2:268).  The ‘forgiveness’… corresponds to the command (that) Satan gives to engage in turpitude; the ‘grace’ corresponds to the poverty Satan promises in the verse (of the Qu’ran, wherein it is mentioned):  “Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you toward turpitude, whereas God promises you forgiveness coming from Him, and grace…” (Q 2:268).  (And so) God places the believer under shelter in the sense that He takes his place (before Satan), and rejects what Satan wants him (the believer) to do.  Thus God pushes a Satanic promise away from His believing servant with a Divine promise.  No one can resist Him (God), and none can be victorious over Him!  Forgiveness is certain, Grace is certain, and the rout of Satan is clear!  …(The lesson being that) Satan’s goal is not the sin itself, (rather) his actual goal is getting the servant accustomed to his power (by making the servant despair of God’s Mercy and Forgiveness).”

 

What hope and faith this gives those of us struggling and worrying over our sins, day in and day out!  Those of us agonizing over whether or not we are good enough, surmising that we aren’t, believing that we are being punished, that God’s Mercy is far off… when the reality is, God is standing between Satan’s promises to us at the very moment that we wonder about such things, blocking Satan’s promises and their effects, promises that the arch-liar has made even while we are in the midst of sin, and yet, even still, God stands between those promises and ourselves, acting as a shield, warding off the Evil One’s declarations of our worthlessness, his declarations of the coming punishment and poverty for our acts, and his declarations that we are worthless and will only continue to sin… Rather, God stands as a barrier, blocking all of it from reaching us, and His shield is only this:  That you have recognized your sin as sin; and as a result of that, The Sublime God has blocked the effects of that sin from reaching you, has turned away the lying, false promises of Satan, and has rewarded you even within your disobedience, as though you had actually performed a good deed in lieu of an evil one; this is His veil and His shield, the ‘maghfirah‘ (forgiveness) of which he speaks in Q. 2:268; all of which elucidates for us the meaning of the hadith qudsi, wherein it has been mentioned that Satan said to God, “By Your Glory and Majesty!  As long as the children of Adam exist on earth, I shall continuously misguide them!’ And so God replied in that selfsame hadith: ‘By My Glory and Majesty!  As long as they go on seeking My forgiveness, I will continue to forgive them!’”  (Related in the Musnad of Imam Ahmed, with a sound sanāḍ).

 

Conclusion:

Little wonder that Our Lord has informed us that one of His Divine Names is Al-Birr, (i.e., the Magnanimous Source of Good)! [4]  After all, what other dispensation can fathom a God as Merciful as this?  Not even Christianity, which boasts of it’s John 3:16 and the rapturous act of Divine Love supposedly being described therein, not even they can dare to rival this notion of Godly Compassion; for the Christian conception of atonement is, according to them, only brought about after a slaughter, whereas our God has given us the same degree of Love without any need for death, sacrifice or bloodshed; rather it was freely given for no other reason than the fact that it is in His nature to give benevolently, even to those that are undeserving –nay! even while they are committing the very acts that make them undeserving of His Mercy and Love… even there, in such wretchedness, His Mercy continues to shield them, comfort them, and bear tidings of their forgiveness and reward!

So Exalt the Name of your Lord, the Tremendous!”  (Q. 56:96).

 

Footnotes, Addenda, & Errata:

[1]  Referencing a lengthy and well-known hadith wherein the Holy Apostle (ﷺ) was giving a sermon in the Mosque, and after some time a desert Arab, i.e., a Bedouin, came and urinated in the sacred space.  The disciples exclaimed, ‘Mah, Mah!‘ -which was an ancient expression meant to severely scold someone.  The Apostle (ﷺ) corrected his own disciples, saying, “Do not censure him; leave him be.”  Later, the Bedouin sat down, and himself exclaimed, “O God!  Have mercy on me, and upon Muhammad, and upon no one else!”  To which the Apostle (ﷺ) responded, “You have made narrow what is wide!”  He then took the man aside, and explained to him in private, the gravity of what he had done.  (Related by Tirmidhi, 147, Ahmad 2/239. Tirmidhi said, “This hadith is Hasan Saheeh.”  Ahmad Shaakir (7254) said, “Its chain is authentic.”  –Also found with different wording / narrative structure in Sahih Muslim and the Musnad of Imam Ahmad).

[2]  Paraphrasing from memory.

[3]  Related in Tirmidhi, Kitab Al-Fitaan, Hadith # 7

[4]  For the usage of Al-Birr as a Divine Epithet, see Q. 52:28.

 

 

The Illuminating Mysteries, Part III of III: Ṣalāh

 

…Continued from Part I, which includes an introduction to this entire series and unveils the Divine secrets of wu’ḍū, as well as from Part II, which explains the “Object” of our ṣalāh by means of extrapolating the Divine secrets of God’s Most Paramount Name, i.e., Allāh, and which also segues into this piece by ending with the significance of the asmallāh.  

So.  If the information in the past two segments has been properly understood, which is to say that if you’re heart has come to embrace the mystical significance of wu’ḍū, and if that selfsame heart has accepted the Splendor of the Essence of God via comprehension of the implications of The Divine Name, then in that case you’re now well equipped to complete the journey and unlock the treasure chest of ṣalāh.

As to the etymology and definition of “ṣalāh” in Arabic, however, that has been covered in Part I in the first footnote; there’s no need to repeat the information here.  As such, we’ll begin with the opening takbīr, and from there go through each portion of a rakaʿā [1], explaining the significance of the movements and some of the recitations as well as their spiritual implications, and ending with the tashahud [2], alawāt [3], and the taslīm [4].

 

THE DIVINE MYSTIQUE OF THE TAKBĪR:

And so, to that end:

As is well known, the prayer formally begins with the takbīr, which consists of raising the hands with palms open and facing outward (that is, away from the body), to roughly the level of the ears, uttering the phrase “Allāhu Akbar,” and then letting the hands fall back down to the sides.  Once the takbīr has been pronounced, the ṣalāh has formally begun and you’ve started a discourse with the Divine that shouldn’t be broken except in the case of a known emergency or a certain loss of one’s purification [5], or something else which invalidates your worship [6].

As for the significance of the movements of the hands during the takbīr, some have said that this is a “surrender pose,” i.e., our takbīr represents the “surrendering” that is done when, for instance, a soldier is threatened (or caught unawares) by the enemy and realizes the futility of escape.  This has some merit as an explanation, since one of the meanings implied by the word Islām is “to surrender;” that is, to surrender to the Divine Will, to give up our designs for God’s design, -both in action and in our hearts, and furthermore, to surrender our opinions to His opinions [7], which in effect means to worship Him on His terms, not ours, how He sees fit, not how we see fit.  Thus, we raise our hands in surrender, out of acknowledgement of this reality, which would mean that the takbīr is meant as if to say (or imply), “My Lord, I give up.  I give up, since My ways are based on limited knowledge, while Your ways are based on unlimited knowledge; I give up tiring myself for this worldly life according to my own ways, which may lead to ruin, while Your ways lead to success and felicity; -my assumptions may be wrong, but Yours are never wrong, and thus, here I am, surrendering myself to You.”

Still others have said that the opening of the hands is meant to be a “physical metaphor” of sorts, implying that one is receiving Divine blessings, sustenance, and guidance, as if to say “we are receiving Your bounties in our hands;” and that when we lower our hands after the takbīrāt, the metaphor changes from that of Divine blessings to that of dunya, i.e., the ephemeral, materialistic distractions of this worldly life, which we subsequently “drop” and “push behind” ourselves after receiving His guidance and entering the ṣalāh.  As to which of the two interpretations are true, God knows best, but in reality they needn’t contradict each other since both are relevant and neither are mutually exclusive.  In fact, it could be said that in “surrendering,” one then “receives” the Divine Bounties “in our hands,” -and that a part or aspect of His Divine gifts is His guiding of our hearts toward inner asceticism, i.e., we then push the dunya behind us, as with the well known aphorism of the Knowers: “We keep dunya out of our hearts, and God thus places it in our hands.

So.  As stated, it’s during this opening takbīr that we recite the mantra, “Allāhu Akbar,” which means in its most literal sense, “God is Greater…” -and it’s left open ended like that because it doesn’t matter what is put at the end of the statement, since God is Greater than that –whatever it is.  And this includes the aqa’id of the theologians [8], the conceptualizations of our minds regarding Him, and any assumptions we harbor about Him, et. al.  God is Greater than all of it.  Indeed, God is Greater than even our paltry ṣalāh which we offer to Him, but which He nevertheless accepts from us out of His Generosity and Mercy.  Realizing the immense truth of His Greatness has many levels, the highest of which is found in the hearts of the Sufis, of whom, it has been narrated, some of them of past times and present would weep before the ṣalāh even began, merely at the recitation of the opening takbīr.  Thus they are like those mentioned in His Book:  “...whereat doth tremble the flesh of those who revere their Lord, so that their flesh and their hearts soften to God’s reminder.”  (Q. 39:23).

 

THE SECRET MEANING OF EACH MOVEMENT / POSITION:

After the opening takbīr, one begins reciting the Fātiḥah, that is, the opening Surah of the Qu’ran.  Shaykh Al-Akbar has elucidated the meanings of the Fātiḥah for us in some of his books, based on what God had revealed to him through khushufat [9] and what he had intuited with his baseera [10], in that he has made known that the Fātiḥah is actually divided into three portions, and each portion has its representation in our movements in the ṣalāt.

1.  Standing

As for the first movement, this is represented by the first three verses:  “All good mention belongs to God, Lord of all worlds, / The All-Encompassing Mercy, The Specifically Merciful, / Master of the Day of Judgment.”  -And this segment, when recited by the one in prayer, is none other than God praising Himself through your voice, i.e., this is the “God-portion” of the Fātiḥah.  As to it’s mirror in the movements / positions of the actual ṣalāh, these three verses are represented by your standing position (and your reciting), since God is not a servant that He should bow or prostrate to anyone.  Rather He is manifesting His Names and Attributes -which permeate all creation- from the reflection of the mirror that is the worshiper’s heart, i.e. it is not “you” who is praising Him, but rather Himself (esp. considering that He is the One that has guided you to ṣalāh in the first place), and thus the “standing” position is said to be a representation or “metaphor” for His praising of Himself.

2.  Bowing

The second portion, which is the barzakh -i.e., the isthmus, or an “intermediary position” between God and man, is represented by the 4th verse of Al-Fātiḥah:  “You Alone We worship, and You Alone we beseech for help,” -this sentence representing a penumbra between the light of God’s own praise of Himself and the shadow of creation, i.e., man, i.e., “other than God,” so that in one sense it continues to be God’s praising of Himself by calling attention to His Oneness, but in another sense, the servant is present and recognizing this along with God, and this has it’s “mirror” in the bowing movement wherein the servant is neither standing nor prostrating, but doing something between the two, i.e., a position midway between standing and prostrating.  In this bowing, or rukuh, the servant recites, “Subhanna Rabbil ‘Azheem,” –Subhan coming from an etymological root which means “to float above,” i.e., to be both “free of” (as in, free of any likeness or similarity, as with His Essence), as well as to be “beyond” and “sublime.”  Rabbil, means, “My Lord,” and ‘Azheem, often translated as “Great,” actually more appropriately means “Tremendous.”  Thus the full meaning of what is recited during the bowing portion is: “Perfection and Sublime Beyond-ness belongs to My Lord, The Tremendous,” -and recognizing God’s Tremendous Attributes and Nature is the first step toward inner humility, or, what Shaykh Al-Akbar calls “perfect servanthood.”

Prostration

As for the third portion of the Fātiḥah, that is, the last three verses wherein the servant is representing the servanthood of his “self,” they are as follows:  “Guide us along the straight path, / The path of those with whom You are pleased / Not the path of those that have incurred Your displeasure, nor of those astray (misguided).”  Since this segment of the recitation has left both the “God-portion” as well as the barzakh or isthmus of the Fātiḥah behind, and has instead entered into the servant’s portion, it’s “mirror” is thus the two prostrations of one’s ṣalāh, meaning that it is in these verses, as well as in the prostrations themselves, -which are the “physical metaphors” for them (i.e., the prostrations), -and so it is in these two things (i.e., the last 3 verses of the Fātiḥah and the prostrations that represent[s] them) that God has ceased praising Himself and the worshiper begins speaking, putting on the cloak of a pure servant, recognizing in his or her humility their absolute and abject need of God’s guidance in all matters.

It’s also within the servant’s portion of Al-Fātiḥah, -meaning, in the prostrations, that one recites, “Subhana Rabbil ‘Ala,” –‘Ala meaning, both “The Loftiest,” as well as “The Sublime.”  Thus this phrase could be translated, “Perfection and Sublime Beyond-ness belong to My Lord, The Lofty,” or, more succinctly, “Sublimity belongs to The Sublime Alone.”

We find these Divine secrets regarding the movements / positions of ṣalāh that I’ve intimated above alluded to not only by Shaykh Al-Akbar, but also by the Holy Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ) himself, who quoted His Lord, (meaning, Allāh) in a hadith qudsi as having said, “I have divided ṣalāh into two halves, (one) between Myself and (one with) My servant…”  [11]  -That is, there is a portion wherein God is praising Himself, and a portion wherein the servant is beseeching God, and the third (or middle) portion is in actuality not a “third” portion at all, but rather an isthmus or barzakh between the two, a non-delimited line wherein one becomes (or merges into) the other, and vice versa.

 

THE DIVINE SECRETS OF THE TASHAHUD / SITTING POSITION:

Now, after comprehending the above information, nevertheless the querent may say, “You’ve explained the takbir, as well as the standing, the bowing, and the prostration adequately, but what, then, of the sitting position?

To that, the Knowers answer that the sitting position is represented by nothing from Al-Fātiḥah per se, rather the movement of “sitting” aims to reveal to the servant his or her absorption within the Divine Names and Attributes.  The worshiper should thus know and realize during the tashahud (i.e., in the sitting position) that everything that exists, including the floor upon which they’re sitting, their prayer rug, the wall they’re facing, and every item in their periphery vision is being recreated and maintained by God within every nanosecond, and each haecceity is a manifestation of one (or several) of His Divine Names.  Which is to say that each “item” within the worshiper’s view is permeated by some from among God’s Names, such as Al-‘Aleem (The Knower), and Al-Khabir (The All-Aware), -these two being highlighted here since His Knowledge of every atom that comprises the “item(s)” in question is absolute, detailed, and forever present.  Also, His Name(s) Al-Khaliq (The Creator) Al-Bari‘ (The Maker / Originator), and Al-Hafiz (The Guardian / Upholder) since He upholds their “thingness” and recreates each “thing” within every nanosecond (or even less)!  Some other “things” manifest other of His Attributes, depending on the item under discussion, such as strength, gentleness, subtle-ness, light, firmness, magnificence, dependable-ness, et. al.  -So, since it is that each “thing” only finds its existence through Him (i.e., it manifests Him from “within” itself), and since that selfsame “thing” is further acted upon externally by Him (i.e., from “without” or “outside” of itself), then in a certain sense nothing can be said to exist save for Him Alone, since it is only the presence of His Names and Attributes within the “thing” that allows it to exist at all.  This is how it is that the servant is “within God,” i.e., absorbed within His Presence (but not within Al-Dhat, His Essence, -it should be noted- which is entirely separate from creation, unlike His Names), and this is what the sitting position of the ṣalāh is meant to convey to the heart of the servant, i.e., that they are surrounded by the Divine, enraptured by Him, enclosed within Him, as well as entirely intimate with Him…

As for what is recited whilst sitting, namely the tahiyat [12], -this only confirms the point, since the tahiyat is simply repeating the conversation that occurred between God and His Apostle, Muhammad (ﷺ) during Al-‘Isra Wa’l-Mir’aj [13], i.e., when The Apostle was in the Divine Presence.  It should further be noted that the tahiyat is in the present tense, since God is beyond the constraints of time.  This serves to teach us to forego notions of “time” altogether, at least while in the ṣalāh, since both the past and future are but abstractions (meaning, for all intents and purposes, and at least insomuch as the servant is concerned, neither past nor future are in any sense “real,” -thus the well known Sufi saying, “The Knowers do not worry over hypotheticals [i.e., abstractions]“), -and both past and present are in the care of God as opposed to being the care of the servant.  Thus the tahiyat teaches one to focus on the “eternal now,” i.e., to absorb ourselves within “God’s time,” as opposed to our limited conception of time, which is built around the false constructs of “past” and “future.”  In so doing, we develop a deeper sense of khushua [14], since our focus is taken out of the realm of “possibility” and re-oriented toward the actuality of the present, i.e., toward the ṣalāh with which we’re presently engaged.

 

THE DIVINE MYSTIQUE OF OUR BENEDICTIONS UPON THE APOSTLE (ﷺ): 

With all of the above understood, we come now to the last thing mandated by God apropos the ṣalāh, namely, the ṣalawāt [4] However, the ṣalawāt requires little extrapolation since the benefits of it are clearly laid out in various statements of the Holy Apostle (ﷺ) himself, such as his saying, “Whoever supplicates God to exalt my mention, God will exalt his mention ten times, and remove ten sins from him (i.e., from his record), and raise him ten degrees (i.e., ten spiritual stations),” and his saying, “There is not one among you who sends his benedictions upon me, except that God returns my soul to my body and I return the benedictions upon him, (i.e., “I ask God to bestow upon him / her, what he / she asked God to bestow upon me,”),” and his saying, “Supplication is suspended between the heavens and the earth and none of it is taken up (to God) until you send benedictions upon your Apostle,” as well as his relating to us that the Angel Gabriel once informed him: “Whoever sends benedictions upon you, I will send benedictions upon him / her, and whoever sends greetings of peace upon you, I will send greetings of peace upon him / her,” and many other statements like these.   

It’s for the prenominate reasons that many of the Knowers, such as Ibnul Qayyum Al-Jawzi and Ibn Hajar Al-Haytami mentioned in their books the numerous, secret benefits that they uncovered by means of their ṣalawāt, such as it resulting in the satisfaction of one’s worldly needs, its miraculously fulfilling one’s worldly desires, its purifying of the “mirror” of one’s heart so that it begins to perfectly reflect the Divine Attributes, its representing a kashf [9] that intimates to the votary that their place in paradise has been secured, its increasing of the power of one’s memory, its safeguarding one against poverty, its protecting the heart against miserliness, its refining of one’s character and manners, its increasing the blessings present within one’s work, life, and provision, its increasing one’s love for the Apostle (ﷺ), -and many other benefits which they’ve mentioned -and others like them- too numerous to cover here.  In understanding this the servant comes to see why ṣalawāt serves as the final “brick” in the construction of the “house” of our “ṣalāt!”  -Which is to say that, just as the Holy Apostle (ﷺ) was the “seal of the Prophets,” (Q. 33:40) so it is that our benediction upon him is the “seal” of the prayer, and our focus and fastidious attention to it during its recitation therein ensures the Divine acceptance of everything that has led up to it, e.g., the acceptance of the ṣalāt itself.

 

THE MEANING OF THE ṬASLĪM:

As to what completes our prayer, meaning, the taslīm [4], we recite the traditional Muslim greeting taught to us by the Apostle (ﷺ), which is to say “as-salāmu ʿalaykum wa rahmatullâh,” once to our left, and then to our right [15]Some have said that this is meant to be a greeting to the two angels that remain at our right and our left, recording our deeds (Q. 50:16-18, and 82:10-12, respectively), while Shaykh Al-Akbar maintains that this is our greeting to the world, which, if we have observed our ṣalāh correctly, we should have previously lost sight of, at least to some degree, due to the engaging discourse with our Lord.  Thus his statement that whoever doesn’t feel as though he’s returning to the dunya after the taslīm, his taslīm is worthless.  As with many interpretations, it could be that both are accurate and hold merit, however.  Allahu ‘Alim.

 

CONCLUSION:

And so, everything that is related to the “deeper meaning” of ṣalāh has been herein covered with as much brevity as the subject will allow.  At this juncture the reader should have a firm grasp regarding the Divine Mysteries that pervade the wu’ḍū, The Divine Name (that is, the “Object” of our worship), and the ṣalāh itself.  A final word of advice is in order, however, namely that one should not only be aware of these meanings and internal realities vis-a-vis worship, but also take care to focus on the words recited, as this is the perfect khushua [14].  And so, with that final point having been made, I leave you all with a reminder from the Holy Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ) himself, who said, “A servant may pray and have nothing recorded (in his / her record) except a tenth of it, or a ninth, or an eighth, or a seventh, or a sixth, or a fifth, or a quarter, or a third, or a half.”  [Related by Imam Ahmad].

Any good in this series belongs to God Alone, whereas the mistakes are mine, -and may God give you and I success!

 

Footnotes, Addenda, and Errata:

[1]  A rakaʿā is a single unit of Islamic prayer, consisting of a standing portion, a bowing portion, and two prostrations.  Each of the 5 daily prayers are all comprised of varying numbers of rakaʿāt.  Fajr (The Dawn Prayer) is 2 rakaʿāt, Dhuhr (Noon Prayer) and ‘Asr (Afternoon Prayer) are both 4 rakaʿāt, Maghrib (Sunset Prayer) is 3, and Isha’ (Night Prayer) is 4.

[2]  The tashahud is the sitting portion of the prayer, to be performed after every 2 rakaʿāt.

[3]  alawāt:  The sending of benedictions upon the Holy Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ) during the final sitting portion of a prayer, just before the taslīm.

[4]  Ṭaslīm:  The recitation of “May Peace Be Upon You” (as-salāmu ʿalaykum) while facing toward the right and then the left, which formally ends the ṣalāt.

[5]  i.e., If one were to invalidate their wu’ḍū.  It should be noted that this can’t be merely “suspected,” but must be known with certainty, otherwise the ṣalāh remains valid and should be continued.

[6]  Such as laughing, for example.  Again, it should be noted that it must be “certain” laughter.  Merely smiling when remembering something doesn’t suffice.

[7]  That is to say, His “commands,” since God doesn’t have mere “opinions,” per se.

[8]  Aqa’id means, “theology,” and is here referring to the 3 most widely followed theological schools within Islamic thought, i.e., ‘Ashari, Maturidi, and Hanbali.

[9] Khushufat, plural of Kashf, which means “unveiling,” -A Sufi concept wherein, through observance of the Sacred Law + additional, supererogatory acts of worship (such as recitation of appropriate litanies), God reveals insights to the heart of an individual votary.

[10] Baseera, meaning, piercing spiritual insights or “the believer’s intuition,” as it is referred to in a certain hadith.

[11] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim: 395

[12] The tahiyat, recited while in the sitting position, is most commonly found in the following form:  (At-taḥiyyātu lillāhi, wa -ṣ-ṣalawātu wa -ṭ-ṭayyibātu. / As-salāmu ʿalayka ayyuhā n-nabīyyu wa-raḥmatu llāhi wa-barakātuh. / As-salāmu ʿalaynā wa-ʿalā ʿibādi llāhi ṣ-ṣāliḥīn. / Ašhadu an lā ilāha illā llāhu / wa-ašhadu anna Muḥammadan ʿabduhu wa-rasūluh), or, in English:  (“Salutations to God and prayers and good deeds. / Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy of God and his blessings. / Peace be on us and on the righteous servants of God. / I bear witness that there is no god but God, / and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger.”)

[13]  Al-‘Isra Wa’l-Mir’aj:  The “Night Journey and Ascension,” wherein the Apostle Muhammad (ﷺ) flew upon a heavenly steed from Mecca to Jerusalem in a single night, and thereafter ascended through the 7 heavens, culminating with an intimate discourse with God.  The ‘Isra is one of the supreme miracles of the Apostle, and is layered with so much meaning and metaphor that it’s impossible to do it justice here.  Nevertheless it should be noted that the tahiyat is a recitation of the conversation that took place between God and His Prophet (ﷺ) whilst the latter was in the Divine Presence.

[14]  Khushua, or “focus / mindfulness in one’s worship.”

[15]  Excepting the followers of the Maliki school of jurisprudence, which maintains only a single taslīm to the right.