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Your faiths tonight

A round-up of things I have learnt recently:

In the confusing array of obscure Muslim sects, the Druzes were among the most obscure. They were a schism of a schism of a schism. Their roots led back to Shi’ite Islam, but the tie was tenuous. So secretive was the Druze religion that even most Druzes didn’t know the details of its teachings. Women and children were told almost nothing. Of the men, only about 10 per cent, al-uqal (the initiated) were allowed to study the ancient manuscripts. The rest, al-juhal (the ignorant, were not even expected to pray.

To say that the religion was obscure was no slight. The Druzes themselves admitted as much. The Druze Faith by Dr Sami Makarem, a Druze professor at the American University of Beirut, was on of the only books ever produced with the blessing of the religious authorities that provided a ray of enlightenment for the ignorant ones. It summed up the religion this way: “Druzism is an esoteric faith. To understand it one needs to be acquainted with Arabic esoteric terminology and with the way esoteric beliefs were written. The latter include deliberate disarrangement of arguments, brevity, and the introduction of trivial subjects while discussing issues of utmost importance.” A real incentive to delay further.

Lawrence Pintak, Seeds of Hate

EDIT: Obviously the Druze still exist now. Lawrence is setting the scene in 1982.

An Easter tradition called “strike the Jew”, whereby members of the Toulouse Jewish community would be batted around a public square by Christians, was ended in the middle of the twelfth century, after hefty payments had been made to count and capitouls. The clergy protested, but the ban held.

Stephen O’Shea, The Perfect Heresy

The former chief mufti, Shaikh Abdullah bin Baz... was a hugely influential figure in the [Saudi] kingdom. In 1982 he won recognition of the King Faisal award for international services to Islam. The same year he published a book entitled The Motion of the Sun and Moon, and the Stationarity of the Earth which held to the pre-Copernican, geocentric cosmology according to which earth is the centre of the universe and the sun moves around it. The cosmology is consistent with Quranic references to the “seven heavens” which modern scholars would see as referring to the Ptolemaic cosmology that held sway before the discoveries of Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo...

In an earlier article the venerable shaikh had threatened all who challenged his pre-Copernican views with a fatwa of takfir, pronouncing them infidels. He did not repeat this fatwa in his 1982 book, which was just as well, as it would have anathematized Prince Sultan bin Salman bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, the son of the mayor of Riyadh and grandson of the kingdom’s founder. Prince Sultan is the Muslim world’s only officially certified astronaut. “Carried aloft in NASA’s space shuttle, [he] could certainly have commented on the Shaikh’s thesis if he had not been preoccupied with the urgent task of determining the direction of [Mecca] for his prayers.”

Malise Ruthven, A Fury for God

The only clear guiding principle [of Hinduism] is ambiguity. If there is a central verse in Hinduism's most important text, the Rig Veda, it is the Creation Hymn. It reads, in part,
Who really knows, and who can swear,
How creation came, when or where!
Even gods came after creation's day,
Who really knows, who can truly say
When and how did creation start?
Did He do it? Or did He not?
Only He, up there, knows, maybe;
Or perhaps not even He.
Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 13th, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
I'm not quite sure why Pintak writes as about the Druze in the past tense. There are loads of them in Lebanon, forming a faction all of their own in Lebanese politics under the leadership of Walid Jumblatt and family and their Progressive Socialist Party, and there are also plenty in Syria, and a few in both Palestine and Israel.
Dec. 13th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
That's purely a context thing: Seeds of Hate is about the Lebanese civil war and how it sowed various seeds, both in the Muslim world and in American foreign policy, that spurted particularly lush fruit 20-odd years later. The passage I'm quoting is setting the scene: "Hezbollah were over here and believed this, the Druze were over there and believed that..." Etc. (Have clarified.)

Edited at 2011-12-13 04:39 pm (UTC)
Dec. 13th, 2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
I thought the Druze were Platonists?

There used to be a strand of Christiantiy which embraced ambiguity too - though you wouldn't know it nowadays. Nicholas Cusanus, 14th c Cardinal: 'The highest truth about the most high is that (it) is and is not, (it) is or is not, (it) neither is not is (it) not.'
Dec. 13th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
A sort of Schroedinger's God, if you will. Or will not.
Dec. 13th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah, we know all about your "tenuous ties".
Dec. 13th, 2011 04:36 pm (UTC)
Hinduism as Dr Seuss?
Dec. 14th, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
“Carried aloft in NASA’s space shuttle, [he] could certainly have commented on the Shaikh’s thesis if he had not been preoccupied with the urgent task of determining the direction of [Mecca] for his prayers.”

Lol, I bet he could, but my goodness I hadn't even considered the problems of locating the qiblah while in outer space. I would have thought that generally praying in the direction of Earth would be enough. (Hmmm, has this issue been referenced in sci-fi novels at all? If your holy land is on another planet across the galaxy and you need to be praying in its direction does that cause logistical problems?)
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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