Posted by: Lister | April 21, 2008

Spencer Gives Context

Robert Spencer now tries to take a look at context. He says he didn’t before because the original claim was about “mistranslation”.

So when Lister acknowledges that “other translators may not mention battle directly in their translation of that one sentence,” he has destroyed his own argument: if even some of the Muslim translators (including Fakhry, whose translation is approved by no less an authority than Al-Azhar) leave “battle” out of that section, one cannot (at least if one has any interest in consistency or integrity) fault Wilders for doing so.

Except that those translators were translating the whole chapter — not isolated lines. Wilders gives the isolated line, without the context. He is thus misleading.

Translation requires giving the sense of the original. If it was just a matter of swapping words from one language to another, then computers would be much better at the job than they currently are.

But then he goes on to talking about context, quoting Rogster.

A Quraysh caravan comes from Syria > Mecca, funded with the money raised from sale of the belongings, of those who went off to join Muhammad.

He doesn’t make clear that these are stolen belongings. That’s probably because Rogster wants to make it look like the Muslims were attacking this caravan for no good reason.

He also doesn’t mention that some of those who “went off” were forced out of Mecca.

As I have shown above, in (2), Muhammad intended to raid the caravan before the Quraysh even thought about attacking Muhammad.

But after the Quraysh had robbed Muslims of their property.

On the Battle of Uhud, Rogster says:

The Quraysh also wanted to strike back at Muhammad, for raiding many Quraysh caravans and for generally being a mass-murdering marauder.

That is something which Muslims do not believe.

Rogster then claims:

The losses on the Muslim side, were far greater than at Badr, but they still gained victory.

That depends on what you call victory. From wiki:

Whilst heavily outnumbered, the Muslims gained the early initiative and forced the Meccan lines back, thus leaving much of the Meccan camp unprotected. As the Muslims left their assigned posts to despoil the Meccan camp, a surprise attack from the Meccan cavalry brought chaos to the Muslim ranks. Many Muslims were killed, and they withdrew up the slopes of Uhud. The Meccans did not pursue the Muslims further, but marched back to Mecca declaring victory. For the Muslims, the battle was a significant setback: although they had been close to routing the Meccans a second time, their desire for the Meccan spoils reaped severe consequences.

The Meccans (Quraysh) declared victory. And the Muslim reaction:

For the Muslims, the battle held a religious dimension as well as a military one. They had expected another victory like at Badr, which was considered a sign of God’s favor upon them. At Uhud, however, they had barely held off the invaders and had lost a great many men. A verse of the Qur’an revealed soon after the battle cited the Muslims’ disobedience and desire for loot as the cause for this setback:

Then Wiki quotes Yusuf Ali’s translation:

“Allah did indeed fulfil His promise to you when ye with His permission were about to annihilate your enemy,-until ye flinched and fell to disputing about the order, and disobeyed it after He brought you in sight (of the booty) which ye covet. Among you are some that hanker after this world and some that desire the Hereafter. Then did He divert you from your foes in order to test you but He forgave you: For Allah is full of grace to those who believe. [3:152]

Wiki again:

According to the Qur’an, then, the misfortunes at Uhud — largely the result of the rear guard abandoning their position in order to seek booty — were partly a punishment and partly a test for steadfastness.

 

Rogster goes on to talk about [8:60] Here are some verses from wikisource:

59 Let not the unbelievers think that they can get the better (of the godly): they will never frustrate (them).

60 Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly.

61 But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things).

62 Should they intend to deceive thee, verily Allah sufficeth thee: He it is That hath strengthened thee with His aid and with (the company of) the Believers;

So get ready for war, I mean really ready — so that your enemy wet themselves. But if they want peace, then give them peace. Don’t worry that they’re trying to trick you with words of peace — you’ll be OK.

Which sounds to me like a command to be naive in accepting peace treaties.

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Responses

  1. You said: “He doesn’t make clear that these are stolen belongings. That’s probably because Rogster wants to make it look like the Muslims were attacking this caravan for no good reason”

    – It’s up for debate whether or not the caravan was carrying stolen goods. Historically, the caravan was paid for by the sale of assets belonging to those who had gone to Medina to join Muhammad.

    Since Muhammad carried out a number of raids against the Quraysh, those who had gone to join Muhammad, were likely part of these raids.

    In retrospect, the forfeiture of their assets, was a way for the Meccans to regain their losses from raids which Muhammad had been carrying out against the Quraysh caravans.

    So no, the caravan attacked by Muhammad, did not carry ‘stolen goods’, but quite understandably ‘forfeited assets’.

    You said: “He also doesn’t mention that some of those who “went off” were forced out of Mecca”

    – I’m not sure which particular persons you are talking about, but if they were Muslims who inhabited Mecca, whilst Muhammad carried out raids against Quraysh caravans, then it is quite understandable why the Meccans would eject them from Mecca.

    You said: “But if they want peace, then give them peace. Don’t worry that they’re trying to trick you with words of peace — you’ll be OK. Which sounds to me like a command to be naive in accepting peace treaties”

    – When 8:60 was revealed, it was most advantageous to the Muslims, if they made peace with tribes which didn’t want to fight him, rather than risk having too many enemies against him.

    This did not last though, and when Muhammad gained enough military power to not worry about having too many enemies against him, 9:29 was revealed in order to allow him to exact a wider campaign against all unbelievers; to make them either convert to Islam, pay the jizya or die by the sword.

  2. It’s amazing, Rogster, that you can be so sure it was the Muslims who were at fault. You give a firm conclusion, even after stating that “it’s up for debate.”

    When the Quraysh take goods that don’t belong to them, that’s “forfeiture of assets” to you. To Muslims and to myself, it was theft.

    If your intention in the original article was to give context to verses of the Quran, then you have to give the Islamic context. Instead, you put forth a context which Muslims do not believe. If you want to say that what Muslims believe to be true is, in fact, false… Then that is a seperate argument. And you have given no evidence that Mohammed robbed the Quraysh.

    It seems clear to me that the Quraysh didn’t like Mohammed’s new religion because it would undermine the source of their wealth. Who would visit Mecca to worship a god who was everywhere? I think it is telling that many of Mohammed’s enemies switched sides after Mecca became the focus of prayer rather than Jerusalem. Muslims visiting Mecca for pilgrimage would be as good a source of income for Mecca as pagan pilgrims.

    9:29 was revealed in order to allow him to exact a wider campaign against all unbelievers; to make them either convert to Islam, pay the jizya or die by the sword.

    9:28 says to keep the Pagans from the holy Mosque, and don’t worry that this will lose you money. Then 9:29 Fight those who… etc

    So 9:28-9 is about the Pagans who had lost control of Mecca.

    The Treaty of Hudaybiyyah had been signed.

    When a skirmish broke out 2 years later, Mohammed offered the Quraysh 3 choices:

    — Dissolve their alliance with the Banu Bakr. (Who the Muslims accused of attacking a tribe allied with the Muslims)
    — Compensate by paying blood money.
    — State that the treaty stood dissolved.

    The Quraysh did the 3rd.

    So the Muslims marched on Mecca. But Mecca didn’t have the forces to join battle, so they surrendered instead.

  3. “When the Quraysh take goods that don’t belong to them, that’s “forfeiture of assets” to you. To Muslims and to myself, it was theft”

    – Well, you have to take into account that those Muslims were considered as marauders/bandits. They actively raided Quraysh caravans with Muhammad.

    Do you honestly expect the Quraysh ‘not’ to recoup their losses from the assets of those marauders/bandits?

    In a 7th century context, it makes perfect sense for them to seize the assets of marauders/bandits.

    Even in a modern context, the same principle would apply. If you stole from the government, then the government would take it’s losses out of your personal assets.

    You said: “you have to give the Islamic context. Instead, you put forth a context which Muslims do not believe”

    – It’s more likely that they ‘don’t want to believe it’ 😉 Naturally the whole ‘it’s theft’ logic, has been pushed hard by Muslims, ever since Muhammad’s time. I don’t expect them to change and suddenly embrace reason, just because it’s the 21st century.

    You said: “you have given no evidence that Mohammed robbed the Quraysh”

    – Quote:”Throughout the year of 623 AD, Mohammad and his companions made several attempts to rob Meccan caravans and kidnap innocent people. Muslims proudly claims these attacks as ‘military expeditions’, which, of course, are nothing but mugging. Those attacks are of two categories, ‘Ghazawaat’ (plural of Ghazawah), and ‘Saraayaa’ (plural of Sariya). When Mohammad took part in the action, it was called ‘Ghazawah’ and raids without Muhammad’s presence are known as ‘Sariya’. Islamic scholars vary on the number of these attacks, but it is estimated to be approximately 17 to 27 ‘Ghazawaat’ and 36 to 100 ‘Saraayaa'”

    Sourced Islam-watch.org, 2005

    The raid which I remember from my research, was the raid at Nakhla in 623, in which Muhammad raided a Quraysh caravan laden with raisins. Some Quraysh were killed in this raid, and the reason why this raid stands out, is because it was carried out ‘during the sacred month’. The raid also distinctly took place before the battle of badr.

    You can go verify this raid (and the quoted raids) yourself, if you want to.

    You said: “So 9:28-9 is about the Pagans who had lost control of Mecca”

    – At the time, verses are often historically about distinct peoples, be it the Quraysh, the Qurayzah, or whatever, and they are never mentioned specifically. It’s always ‘the unbelievers’ or ‘the pagans’, depending on translations.

    What you have to understand, is that Qur’anic verses are applicable for all time and not limited to particular places or peoples, so whilst a verse may translate as unbelievers or pagans or idolaters, really… it’s typically always just ‘unbelievers’. The Qur’an is purposely ambiguous for the sole purpose of allowing the Qur’an to be applicable for all time, no matter what variety of unbeliever Muslims may come across in future.

  4. Well, you have to take into account that those Muslims were considered as marauders/bandits. They actively raided Quraysh caravans with Muhammad.

    You have to prove that. And that Muslims believe it — after all, this is about Islam. What Muslims believe is a huge part of the context.

    It’s more likely that they ‘don’t want to believe it’

    I don’t believe it either. But that’s neither here nor there. You cannot talk about what Islam is without telling people what Muslims believe. It would be dishonest.

    The raid which I remember from my research, was the raid at Nakhla in 623, in which Muhammad raided a Quraysh caravan laden with raisins. Some Quraysh were killed in this raid, and the reason why this raid stands out, is because it was carried out ‘during the sacred month’.

    Mohammed himself had to flee Mecca in 622. And he was far from the first Muslim to leave. Mohammed only left when his uncle (who was powerful enough to protect him) died. Before Mohammed left, he had sent many of his followers to Ethiopia (That was in 615, according to wiki). The Quraysh sent a messenger to the Christian King of Abyssinia, asking that he return the Muslims as prisoners. The king refused.

    So, to pretend that this started in 623 seems a bit of a stretch. Find something from before 615, for starters.

    As for fighting in the sacred month… Would that be the topic of 2:217?

    They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: “Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members.” Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter.

    Recognising such fighting as a grave offence, but justifying it with comparison to oppression.

    You may say this is just spin — that you know for sure that the Quraysh were in the right and oppressed no-one. But the topic is Islam, and you have to report what Muslims believe — even if only to say what they believe is historically inaccurate.

    The Qur’an is purposely ambiguous for the sole purpose of allowing the Qur’an to be applicable for all time, no matter what variety of unbeliever Muslims may come across in future.

    So it’s ambiguous in order to have a particular meaning? Are you serious?

  5. You said: “Mohammed himself had to flee Mecca in 622….. So, to pretend that this started in 623 seems a bit of a stretch. Find something from before 615, for starters”

    – Erm, 622-623 is not ‘a bit of a stretch’ at all. If you read the link I gave, then you would see that it was argued that Muhammad began raiding caravans within six months of leaving Mecca. That’s just enough time to establish himself in Medina and raise a raiding squad of Muslims.

    Also, to argue the case that Muhammad should have been raiding as early as 615, negates the fact that Muhammad, during his time living in Mecca, was vulnerable to the Quraysh authorities. If he was raiding caravans whilst still living in Mecca, then the Quraysh would quite possibly have put him to death for being a marauder.

    You said: “Recognising such fighting as a grave offence, but justifying it with comparison to oppression”

    – Robert Spencer has spoken many times about 2:217, but I liked this quote:

    http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/018463.php

    “In The Truth About Muhammad, I discuss the phrase “persecution is worse than slaughter” (Qur’an 2:191, 2:217) in historical context (yeah, yeah, I know I’m never supposed to read Qur’an verses in context, but I just can’t help myself) as referring to the permissibility of a raid carried out by the Muslims against their enemies during one of the sacred months of the pagan Arab calendar, when fighting was forbidden. The phrase enunciates the principle that since the Muslims were being persecuted, or thought they were, it was all right for them to slaughter the pagans even during the sacred month. Thus a moral principle could be set aside in the interests of jihad”

    You said: “So it’s ambiguous in order to have a particular meaning? Are you serious?”

    – Why do you think that the Quraysh are constantly referred to as pagans, idolaters, or unbelievers? It was so that verses which say stuff like: “Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them”, could be applied to any variety of ‘unbeliever’ for all eternity. It was understood that the Quraysh would not last forever, and so the verses needed to be ambiguous enough about the ‘target’, so that the verse could be applied to future campaigns against different opponents/unbelievers/targets.

  6. That’s just enough time to establish himself in Medina and raise a raiding squad of Muslims.

    Time for Mohammed to do this and that is neither here nor there. It’s about who started what. You’ve said the Quraysh kicked the Muslims out for commiting crimes and took their property as “forfeiture of assets”. But then you point to events which occur after Muslims were forced out of Mecca (one of the most famous being the 615 escape to Abyssinia) and give it as one of your examples. Why were Muslims forced to flee to Abyssinia in 615?

    Also, to argue the case that Muhammad should have been raiding as early as 615, negates the fact that Muhammad, during his time living in Mecca, was vulnerable to the Quraysh authorities.

    I don’t say he should have been raiding as early as 615 — YOU imply it! Otherwise, you cannot justify the actions of the Quraysh in 615.

    Robert Spencer has spoken many times about 2:217, but I liked this quote:

    2:217 calls the attack a grave offence. Spin all you like. At least Robert Spencer had the honesty to mention that Muslims justified the attack in response to oppression. That’s more than you. You didn’t do that at all. You just go on about how Mohammed was some sort of pirate. But you can’t point to the crimes which justified forcing Muslims to flee to Abyssinia in 615.

    Seems to me like the Quraysh persecuted the Muslims and the Muslims were justified in protecting themselves.

    It was so that verses which say stuff like: “Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them”, could be applied to any variety of ‘unbeliever’ for all eternity.

    9:5 again.

    What about the verses preceeding 9:5? Do they apply for all eternity? The verses tell Muslims to honour treaties with those that kept their side of the treaty, but free Muslims from honouring treaties that were broken by the other side.

    [9:4] (But the treaties are) not dissolved with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term: for Allah loveth the righteous.

    [9:5] commands war against those that broke their treaties.

    [9:6] commands that Pagans be given asylum if they ask for it.


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