June 29, 2005

72 raisins

This has come up before but there is a new book that explores this in quite some detail... Islamofascist "Martyrs" (shahids) are allowed to kill themselves if their deaths promote the Jihad (struggle). Otherwise, in Islam, suicide is verboten. Shahids are given a little bit of extra encouragement to sign up by being promised a rather cushy afterlife including 72 dark-eyed virgins. It turns out that there might be a wee problem with the translation of some older source documents. The Guardian has a review of a new book that explores this in quite some detail:
Virgins? What virgins?
It is widely believed that Muslim 'martyrs' enjoy rich sensual rewards on reaching paradise. A new study suggests they may be disappointed.

In August, 2001, the American television channel CBS aired an interview with a Hamas activist Muhammad Abu Wardeh, who recruited terrorists for suicide bombings in Israel. Abu Wardeh was quoted as saying: "I described to him how God would compensate the martyr for sacrificing his life for his land. If you become a martyr, God will give you 70 virgins, 70 wives and everlasting happiness." Wardeh was in fact shortchanging his recruits since the rewards in Paradise for martyrs was 72 virgins. But I am running ahead of things.

Since September 11, news stories have repeated the story of suicide bombers and their heavenly rewards, and equally Muslim scholars and Western apologists of Islam have repeated that suicide is forbidden in Islam. Suicide (qatlu nafsi-hi) is not referred to in the Koran but is indeed forbidden in the Traditions (Hadith in Arabic), which are the collected sayings and doings attributed to the Prophet and traced back to him through a series of putatively trustworthy witnesses. They include what was done in his presence that he did not forbid, and even the authoritative sayings and doings of his companions.
The reviewer then talks about some of the inconsistencies in the Koran and supporting texts and gives a few examples. He then goes on to the book:
This naturally leads to the most fascinating book ever written on the language of the Koran, and if proved to be correct in its main thesis, probably the most important book ever written on the Koran. Christoph Luxenberg's book, Die Syro-Aramaische Lesart des Koran, available only in German, came out just over a year ago, but has already had an enthusiastic reception, particularly among those scholars with a knowledge of several Semitic languages at Princeton, Yale, Berlin, Potsdam, Erlangen, Aix-en-Provence, and the Oriental Institute in Beirut.

Luxenberg tries to show that many obscurities of the Koran disappear if we read certain words as being Syriac and not Arabic. We cannot go into the technical details of his methodology but it allows Luxenberg, to the probable horror of all Muslim males dreaming of sexual bliss in the Muslim hereafter, to conjure away the wide-eyed houris promised to the faithful in suras XLIV.54; LII.20, LV.72, and LVI.22. Luxenberg 's new analysis, leaning on the Hymns of Ephrem the Syrian, yields "white raisins" of "crystal clarity" rather than doe-eyed, and ever willing virgins - the houris. Luxenberg claims that the context makes it clear that it is food and drink that is being offered, and not unsullied maidens or houris.

In Syriac, the word hur is a feminine plural adjective meaning white, with the word "raisin" understood implicitly. Similarly, the immortal, pearl-like ephebes or youths of suras such as LXXVI.19 are really a misreading of a Syriac expression meaning chilled raisins (or drinks) that the just will have the pleasure of tasting in contrast to the boiling drinks promised the unfaithful and damned.

As Luxenberg's work has only recently been published we must await its scholarly assessment before we can pass any judgments. But if his analysis is correct then suicide bombers, or rather prospective martyrs, would do well to abandon their culture of death, and instead concentrate on getting laid 72 times in this world, unless of course they would really prefer chilled or white raisins, according to their taste, in the next.
Enjoy your raisins guys -- couldn't be happening to a nicer bunch of people... Posted by DaveH at June 29, 2005 11:26 PM