Monday, January 17, 2022

rufus is in the bible

So lately I've been living in a Hebrew Israelite / Kemetic / "conscious community" YouTube rabbit hole and I intend to share bits and pieces as I digest and reflect on it some more. But one idea I've been mulling over is how the children of Israel were originally an African nation (they came into Egypt as a largish family and after generations of intermarriage they became a nation of millions by the time of the Exodus).

It reminds me of how in the Kevin Smith film Dogma, Chris Rock plays the Black 13th Apostle named Rufus. And even though in the film Rufus complains that he was censored from the Bible because of racism, one of my favorite factoids related to the film is that Rufus is actually in the Bible:

And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyre'ne, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. - Mark 15:21 (Note that Cyrene is in Africa, in Libya). 

And again

Greet Rufus, eminent in the Lord, also his mother and mine. - Romans 16:13

(Warning: Depending on how "prudish" you are, you might find the scenes on the vulgar side)

Monday, January 03, 2022

more of the elephant parade


haile selassie the mahdi?

Recently I've "met" someone online who is a Muslim / Rasta / Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. (I'm not sure if that does justice to exactly how he identifies).  But he did put forward the interesting notion that Haile Selassie was the Mahdi. He was basing his views on statements from Ibn al-Arabi, and hadith about an Abyssinian being prophecies to destroy the Kaaba along with other sources. 

I don't agree with that position, but I wonder if it we could view him as a sort of antitype to Ashama, the Negus of the first Hijra. 

RESPECT!: An Islamic Tribute to HIM Haile Selassie & My Abyssinian (“Rasta”) Brethren

Sunday, December 26, 2021

the camel (part three)

I don't know if it is in response to this blog or other reasons but Ryan of Remnant Rendezvous is getting more open about his Christian commitments. He still starts many of his videos with "Asalam-alaikum" and some of the people commenting on his channel still seem to be under the impression that he is Muslim.  But he is being being more upfront about his Christian (specifically Seventh Day Adventist) beliefs, especially when it comes to eschatology. In one comment he says plainly (to a Christian): 

"I wouldn’t ask you to convert. I also hold the Bible and Jesus in the highest regard. Islam is really just means submission to God. The modern religion called Islam is a different thing entirely. I consider myself primarily a Torah observant follower of Yeshua."

(In other words, he is not primarily a Quran observant follower of Muhammad [saaws])

And in another video  Muhammad & Ellen White Compared he affirms that Ellen G. White, one of the founding figures of Seventh Day Adventism, is a prophet. 

What does Ellen G. White actually have to say about say about Islam or Muslims in particular?:

The Saviour has said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” He says again, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Mohammedanism has its converts in many lands, and its advocates deny the divinity of Christ. Shall this faith be propagated, and the advocates of truth fail to manifest intense zeal to overthrow the error, and teach men of the pre-existence of the only Saviour of the world? O how we need men who will search and believe the word of God, who will present Jesus to the world in his divine and human nature, declaring with power and in demonstration of the Spirit, that “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” O how we need believers who will now present Christ in life and character, who will hold him up before the world as the brightness of the Father’s glory, proclaiming that God is love! (The Home Missionary, September 1892).

In other words, if Ellen G. White is really accepted as a truth-speaking prophet then Islam is ultimately an error. (And that seems to  ultimately be Ryan's view).

When I've asked him about it, Ryan generally denies having anything to do with the Camel method which we've described before. But it seems like the Adventist movement has its own ways to try to evangelize Muslims. (See Ministry Magazine: Relating to Muslims: An Adventist view )

At least one Adventist approach is called "Faith Development in Context".

To be fair, the contextualization approach described in the article linked to above does not come off quite as dishonest as the Camel method. But it does match pretty well with what I've seen Ryan doing on his page. There are multiple steps to the method, and I've seen Ryan use many of them, especially Step 5. Move from Qur'an to Torah, Zaboor, Injil.

The end goal of this approach is one of several states:
Most of those who become favor able to Christianity and Adventism will fall into one of three possible configurations: (1) "Muslim Adventist," which provides for Muslim forms of worship and uses some redemptive analogies but maintains a basic Adventist identity in the context of being a follower of the faith of Abraham; (2) "Adventist Muslim," which maintains a basic Muslim cultural and spiritual (vs. "religious") identity such as "Hanif," while espousing Adventist beliefs—truly God's people in context; (3) Remain a secret believer.
At the end of the day, Ryan is still very much a Christian who is trying to evangelize Muslims.

In addition to "the Camel Method" and the "Faith Development in Context" approach, another label often used to describe these sorts of efforts is "contextualization" (basically trying to restate Christian beliefs in a Muslim context). Some Christians have even come up with a classification scheme to describe different kinds of communities along a continuum. Using this classification scheme, Ryan seems to be taking a C5 approach. 


Missionaries establish a church that is basically identical to wherever they are from. Services are conducted in the language of the missionaries. They call themselves “Christians” and have very little cultural connection to the region where they plant the church.

The same as C1, except the services are conducted in the language of the region.

They have incorporated many non-religious cultural forms of the region into their community, such as dress, art, etc. They still reject any purely Islamic religious elements. They may meet in a traditional church building or in a more religiously neutral location. They call themselves “Christians” but try to have a more contextualized presence in the region.

They are similar to C3, but they incorporate some Islamic religious elements into their community – like avoiding pork, praying in a more Islamic style, using Islamic dress and employing Islamic terminology. They call themselves “Followers of Isa” or something similar. Their meetings are usually not held in traditional church buildings. They are not considered to be Muslims by the Muslim community.

They retain their legal and social identity within their Muslim community. They reject or reinterpret any part of Islamic practices and doctrine that contradict the Bible. They may or may not attend the mosque regularly, and they actively are involved in sharing their faith in Jesus with other Muslims. They may call themselves Muslims who follow Isa al-Masih, or just Muslims. They may be viewed by their community as Muslims that are a little unorthodox.

They keep their faith secret because of an extreme threat of persecution, suffering or legal retaliation. They may worship secretly in small groups. They do not normally share their faith openly and have a 100% Muslim identity.

Here is a short excerpt of Jay Smith talking about the C5 and C6 approach:

Saturday, December 25, 2021

there is something about mary (part two)

Surah 3: The Family of 'Imran

35. Behold! a woman of 'Imran said: "O my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: So accept this of me: For Thou hearest and knowest all things."

36. When she was delivered, she said: "O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!"- and Allah knew best what she brought forth- "And no wise is the male Like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected."

37. Right graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty [...]

42. Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee- chosen thee above the women of all nations.

43. "O Mary! worship Thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down."

44. This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Messenger.) by inspiration: Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor wast thou with them when they disputed (the point).

45. Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah.

46. "He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous."

47. She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?" He said: "Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, 'Be,' and it is!


"The Blind Men and the Elephant" by Laura Winge

Title: Blind Men and the Elephant
Period: Meiji period (1868–1912)


prayer and fasting

I'm amazed at how close the ancient Christian traditions (and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in particular) are so similar in form to Islam. They include regular prayers at specified times a day with given postures and a qibla and fasting much of the year. 
Manner of Prayer
The Fetha Negest, or Law of the Kings, reminds us that prayer is man’s way of communicating with Almighty God. In prayer, man thanks God, praises Him and recognizes His domain, confessing hid sin and seeking on his part the way of pleasing Him. The following precepts are laid down for one who prays. Firstly, he should stand up, as enjoined on the words of the Lord; “When you rise up for prayer; you shall stand up.” Secondly, he should gird himself with girdle; as the Lord has said “Let your loins be girt.” Thirdly, he should turn towards the east, for that is the direction from which Christ will appear in His second coming. Fourthly he should make the sign of the cross from the forehead downward and from left to right. Fifthly he should recite the prayer in fear and trembling. Sixthly he should kneel down and prostrate himself, since the gospel tells us that on the night of his passion, our lord prayed prostrating himself and kneeling.

Times of Prayer
The faithful should pray seven times each day. First upon arising from bed in the morning and before beginning work. Secondly at the third hour; thirdly, at the sixth hour; fourthly, at the ninth hour; fifthly, the evening prayer; sixthly, the prayer before sleep and lastly, the midnight prayer

In the Fetha Negest* fasting is defined as follows:
“ Fasting is abstinence from food, and is observed by man at certain times determined by law, to attain forgiveness of sins and much reward, obeying thus the one who fixed the law. Fasting (also) serves to weaken the force of concupiscence so that (the body) may obey the rational soul.”

Fasting is strictly observed by all faithful members of the church. There are approximately 250 fast days in the year, although not all of these are compulsory for everyone. The average person may fast about 180 days in the year. There are seven official fasting periods for Ethiopian Christians.
1. All Wednesday and Fridays, except for the 50 days after Easter.
2. The Lenten fast of 55 days.
3. The Nineveh fast of 3 days.
4. The vigils, or gahad of Christmas and epiphany.
5. The fast of the apostles; this varies in length, depending upon the date of Easter, and maybe a minimum of 14 days and maximum of 44. This fast commemorates St. peter and St. Paul.
6. The fast of the prophets of 43 days.
7. The fast of the assumption, 15 days in august.
Of these fasts, the fast of the apostles and the fast of the prophets are compulsory for clergy only, although they are also observed by many of the faithful. All the other fasts are considered obligatory for all devout Christians, except children under seven. During fasting periods, Christians abstain from meat and all animal products: meat, milk, butter and eggs. No food or drink is taken before noon, at the earliest: even then only a simple repast should be taken. Pregnant women, the seriously sick and travelers are exempted from fasting. In Holy Week no food is taken before 1 p.m. or later. The really devout fast completely from Good Friday till Easter Sunday, while others eat only the evening meal on these days. The Lenten fast is traditionally broken by a joyful feast that takes place after midnight mass, at about 3 a.m., or the first cock- crow or Easter Sunday morn. (source)


The Order of Fasts in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church

Friday, December 24, 2021

can black peter be redeemed / reimagined?

For a while now I've been thinking about writing a children's book where Black Peter leads a revolution against Saint Nick and replaces Santa's sweatshops with a socialist gift-giving cooperative based out of Palmares in  Brazil (or maybe Mondragon, Spain). Somehow it will probably connect to kwanzaa and the black wise men too. Hopefully saying it out loud will help light a fire under my behind.... we'll see...

I still haven't seen the film Santa and Pete but I just found out that it it is free on Tubi so maybe I'll get around to it this "holiday season". Apparently Ishmael Reed has also played with Black Peter in some of his recent fiction. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

"no thicker than this line"

For a while now I've been really curious about Oriental Orthodoxy, and especially Ethiopian Orthodoxy. It is amazing that Christianity starts off as an African / Middle Eastern religion but that the forms of Christianity which originate in MENA cultures (Coptic, Ethiopian Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, etc.) are considered heretical by the majority. Ostensibly, this is because these churches rejected to Council of Chalcedon of 451 CE and developed a subtly different Christology.

In particular, I have started to wonder if, from an Islamic perspective,  the Ethiopian Orthodox Church should be thought of as having a special status among the People of the Book. 

One of the main inspirations for this notion is the story of the Muslim emigrants who sought asylum in Ethiopia from the Negus Ashama. Muhammad (saaws) himself called this Christian Negus a righteous king, had the  Negus represent him in a marriage and even led his funeral prayer. 

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

khalil andani on the injil

This is a fascinating conversation between Dr. Khalil Andani and Paul Williams.  (Although they both go to great pains to say that Dr. Andani is there as an academic expert and not any kind of religious authority. I found it to be a little excessive. It seemed like Williams is worried to death that he will be accused of giving an endorsement to an Ismai'li). 

Adani has some interesting ideas of what the Quranic "Injil" is. He argues that there is a parallelism in the Quran / Islam between "Quran and sunnah" , "Kitab and Hikmat" and "Torah and Injil". And specifically he argues that the Injil isn't really a separate independent scripture in its own right. It should primarily be seen as the "wise application of the Torah" as taught by Jesus (as) and not a stand-alone text. In particular, it can't possibly be the New Testament or Biblical gospels. 

Finally, Andani points to some research which (contrary to what many Christian missionaries tend to say) there is a very long history of Muslim scholars accusing the Christian Bible of textual corruption. One claim which you might see Christians make is that Ibn Hazm (is it anachronistic to call him Hispanic?) of the 11th century was the first Muslim to accuse the Bible of textual corruption. But in fact, Al Jahiz  , the black Iraqi scholar, was accusing the Bible of textual corruption several centuries earlier. 

I've mentioned al-Jahiz in this blog beforeI feel like I need to be more familiar with him. Many years ago, I read a translation of his Al-Fakhar al-Sudan min al-Abyadh. He is also famous for having foreshadowed the theory of evolution. A real polymath.

good friday (part two)

Corpus Hypercubus by Salvador Dali

That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not: (4:157)


For a while now, I've started to become aware that "the" Islamic understanding of the crucifixion is not *quite* as simple as I once believed. Most Muslims maintain, based on 4:157 that Jesus (as) in no sense, died on the cross, nor was he ever even put on it. In this camp, some maintain that somehow Judas was made to look like Jesus and that he was put on the cross instead.   But there have also been minority opinions which to varying degrees have allowed for more points of contact with the Christian narrative (including some which even affirm Christ's biological death on the cross).

One good resource in this area is the book by Todd Lawson, The Crucifixion and the Quran  which looks at a wide range of Muslim commentaries on 4:157. The author is a Bahai, and so perhaps one could argue that he wrote the book, in part, out an interest to gather evidence which supports Bahai interpretations of topic. (The Bahais affirm that the Quran is "absolutely authentic" including  4:157. But they also accept the validity of much of the Bible, in particular they, affirm the basics of the Biblical passion narrative. According to Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahai Faith, "The crucifixion as recounted in the New Testament is correct. The meaning of the Qur'ánic version is that the spirit of Christ was not Crucified. There is no conflict between the two.")

Whatever his agenda, Lawson's book is an interesting and valuable round-up of different tafsirs on the crucifixion verse and different Muslim narratives on the end of Christ's ministry on Earth. 

If you have the time (roughly 2 hours), Dr. Ali Ataie, a professor at Zaytuna College, has a lecture where he gives an overview of different Muslim perspectives of the crucifixion which takes heavily from Lawson's book. 

What is also interesting is that Dr. Ataie himself seems to affirm the bodily death of Jesus. I would recommend listening to his own words on the subject. But his basic point is that 4:157 says "they killed him not" which still allows the possibility that Jesus (as) gives up his life willingly. As the Bible says: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father." (John 10:17-18).

I don't mean to be flippant, but I am almost tempted to compare this to the scene in Star Wars when from a distance it only seems as if Darth Vader kills Obi-Wan Kenobi. But in reality, Vader neither killed Kenobi, nor cut him with a light saber. It only appeared so. In reality Obi-Wan chooses to surrender to the Force at the end of his earthly life. He primarily engages in a duel with Vader to distract him and give the rebels enough time to escape the Death Star.

Another point which Dr. Ataie makes has to do with the question: What is accomplished by Jesus' death? And his interesting (and actually plausible) answer is Jesus death literally saved the people of Jerusalem from the wrath of the Romans for a generation.  As the Bible itself says after the raising of Lazarus:

John 11

[45] Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him;
[46] but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
[47] So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.
[48] If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation."
[49] But one of them, Ca'iaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all;
[50] you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish."
[51] He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation,
[52] and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
[53] So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death. 

or if you are a fan of Jesus Christ Superstar:

In other words, Jesus' growing popularity while associated with messianic claims  (i.e. claiming to be the king of the Jews when under Roman occupation)  was politically subversive in a way which would bring about massive retaliation from the Romans. (And in fact we know this was realistic concern because only one generation later a different popular Jewish rebellion would cause the Romans to strike against the Jews and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.) Dr. Ataie seems to be arguing that if it weren't for Jesus' death on the cross, this destruction would have occurred much sooner.

Also note that according to John 11, Caiphas "did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation". This is an interesting, but seldom discussed point. The Jewish authorities who sought to kill Christ were not just acting out of jealousy or resentment over Christ's popularity or a selfish fear for their own political position. They were at least partially motivated by a legitimate concern for the fate of the Jews under Roman occupation.

Ismaili scholar Khalil Andani has also done some really interesting work elaborating on Muslims who have affirmed the material reality of crucifixion. (Apparently this is the mainstream Isma'ili position)

First here is Dr. Andani giving a talk on Shi'a Isma'ili Muslim Christology with an emphasis on the crucifixion:

And then here is a paper which covers much of the same ground but with more detail: “They Killed Him Not”: The Crucifixion in Shi‘a Isma‘ili Islam 

What is really interesting here (and this is elaborated on in both the paper and the video) is that the Ismailis don't just tentatively concede the physical reality of the crucifixion. Instead they give full-throated support to the crucifixion as a theologically significant event (although it still isn't some atoning sacrifice as Christians generally believe). And they even go so far as to say the symbol of the cross can be esoterically identified with the shahada of Islam)

Lots to unpack...

Planet Grenada:

"jah would never give the power to a baldhead/ run come crucify the dread."

(this is actually an old post which ended up getting republished)

I've been listening to Bob Marley's Natural Mystic in my car these days. And I'm especially intrigued by the song Time Will Tell (which is where the title of this blog entry comes from). To be honest, I still don't know for sure how the different groups of Rastafari understand the crucifixion of Christ, but whenever I hear this song I can't help but wonder if the Rastafarian perspective is similar to the Islamic one. In any case, this is all just a roundabout way of introducing the following (see also Grenada and the crucifixion) :

Story of Jesus Through Iranian Eyes By LARA SETRAKIAN TEHRAN, Iran, Feb. 16, 2008 

A new movie in Iran depicts the life of Jesus from an Islamic perspective. “The Messiah,” which some consider as Iran’s answer to Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” won an award at Rome’s Religion Today Film Festival, for generating interfaith dialogue. The movie will be adapted into a television series, shown on Iranian TV later this year. Filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh spoke to ABC’s Lara Setrakian in Tehran. 

LS: Why did you feel a movie showing Islam’s take on Jesus needed to be made? 

NT: I’ve been witnessing what’s been going on in Iran for the past 28 years; I’ve been living here after I lived a decade in America. Everybody knows Jesus, so why not make a film about something everyone relates to? And made in Iran.

LS: What are the key differences between Jesus through Islam’s eyes and Jesus through the traditional Christian perspective? 

NT: We are talking about the same beautiful man, the same beautiful prophet, the same divine person sent from heaven. In the Koran, it emphasizes maybe three main points: about the birth, about the fact that he was not the son of God, and then, that he was not crucified. The rest is [the same] Jesus … the sermons, and the miracles, and the political situation.

LS: So, when it comes to Jesus, the message and the reverence are there.

NT: Yes.

LS: But the virgin birth, the crucifixion… 

NT: The virgin birth was the same. The difference in the Koran, God says Jesus was saved. Instead of having him hung and crucified, the person who betrayed Jesus was crucified. This is how the Koran sees it, through the Gospel of Barnabas.

LS: So, you gave the alternate ending.

NT: Yes, two endings. I thought, the Christians, when they see it, it'll be important for them. [In the Koran] God says, emphatically, he was not crucified. Somebody was crucified in his stead. In the Gospel of Barnabas, there are explications of this. The majority of [Muslims] say the one who betrayed Jesus [was crucified].

LS: There's plenty of news today about Christians being persecuted, or even killed, today, in Muslim countries. So, where does the Muslim reverence for Christians go off-track?

NT: It doesn't go off-track. The Muslim reverence is very high for Jesus and Mary. This is the misunderstanding in the West — especially in America.

LS: So, then, why in your mind do Muslims, in some places, kill Christians?

NT: Well, those are not Muslims. They're murderers. First and foremost, they're murderers, and they dress as Muslims. Today, we have that problem. There is an evil strain in those people. They're, first, evil, and then they find a religion to address that evil, or to explain it, or as an excuse. But that's a minority that is aggrandized, and it's elaborated — it's constant. So, when you hear the word "Islam," you get a shock. Every time you hear "Islam," you get a little shock. What we lack is communication.

LS: While production on this movie was happening, Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" came out. What did you learn from watching that film?

NT: We were almost finished filming when Mel Gibson started shooting. I saw the film, and it's the first time the Gospel of John has ever been depicted. It was nice. But it was the wrong story. In my film, I respect that common belief with all the good intentions the Christians have ... according to what Islam says. Yet, Jesus, at the night of the last supper, ascends to heaven [without being crucified]. A beautiful man, a beautiful prophet. Why should he be bloodied that way?

LS: What kind of response have you gotten from Christians? What kind of feedback and interchange has there been since the movie was released?

NT: Many thought this film is a good step for serious inter-religious dialogue. Many of them liked it — seeing the Koran-based ending. And I was very happy that the practicing Christians were very happy with the film. I have never found one case among practicing Christians who are offended [by the movie]. American Christians, I respect them very much. I think these Christians, the born-again Christians, especially, are a very interesting group that Iran is not aware of, because a whole generation of Iranians haven't been able to travel to America. And those who do move to America, stay in America. So, how to create serious communication, not at the political, but at the religious level? I thought this would be a shortcut.

LS: Any plans for a movie that would help the dialogue between Muslims and Jews? 

NT: This film is about Jesus, who is the last Jewish prophet. The audience has to realize that Iranians have been living with Jews and Christians for centuries. Jews were saved by Iranian kings. This was always their home, and it still is their home. Also, the first Christian church was built in Iran. The first Christian tribe that became Christian, the first tribe — was the Armenians. Armenians were part of the Persian Empire ... they found comfort living with the Iranians.

LS: What is your hope for the movie?

NT: The film is an excuse to sit down and talk. Iran is so consistently demonized. Once an American visits Iran, they know it's a different story. So, how do we export our thinking? It's the movies. This is a film for students and for practicing Christians, for people to become curious, and go investigate more. My hope for the movie was, and is, and will be, to make people think about how God sees the prophets, how God talks about Jesus in the Koran. What was the main message of Jesus? And what was censored out of history? Part of the message of Jesus was censored out, which was the coming of the next prophets. If you listen to what Jesus said, Jesus talked about the Prophet Mohammad, many, many times. And it was eliminated in the Gospels and the Bibles that [made it through] history. In 325, the Council of Nice was out to destroy all the other Gospels. One of those Gospels was the Gospel of Barnabas, which I used in great detail.

LS: And what did that say that was left out?

NT: It had a lot of sermons of Jesus that you do not see in the Bible; miracles, and at least a hundred references to the Prophet Mohammad, about his coming. It's one of the biggest censorships of history. So, I thought somebody should say this, and then others might disagree, say, "Ahhh, this could not be! This is blasphemy!" But it's OK — this is the 21st century. It's time for information. It's time for communication. They can go check it out.

LS: Anything else you felt while making the film?

NT: I thought about Americans when I was shooting this ... I was thinking that I have very good memories of the '90s, living in Virginia, remembrances of kindness. The misunderstanding of the past three decades really burns my heart. There's so much misunderstanding about Islam today. And one of those key missing links, that would bind the chain together, is Jesus Christ. I thought, we should work on talking through something that's much more dear to us than other things. I thought that, through art, you could do a lot more than with the politics.

Friday, December 03, 2021

lost property

Part of the reason I've been on an elephant kick lately is that the fable is one of the better ways to make sense of religious diversity. It is humble and modest. Many other approaches to religious difference end up coming from a place of arrogance or presumption. I mean, in order to have a grand unified vision of all religions you are almost necessarily claiming to be able to judge the merits of vast traditions and spiritual systems from a place of authority and knowledge. A very top-down vision. And sure, maybe there are certain scholar-saints with the comprehensive knowledge to pull it off, but they'd have to be few and far between in human history. Everyone else is going to have non-trivial limitations and "blind spots".

A more modest ground-up approach makes more sense to me. I'm not a Perennialist who claims to know the Sophia Perennis. I'm just a Muslim with a charitable view of other religions. So I'm tentatively open to the idea that Buddha, Zoroaster, Aesop, Akhenaton, Lao Tzu and others were prophets and that the Book of Coming Forth By Day, Mandaean scriptures, the Gathas, the I Ching and other writings contain prophetic guidance (or at the very least, some good advice).

I'm not trying to advocate for a syncretic approach. We should only follow one shariah, not mix-and-match among different rituals and commandments.

But at the same time, we should be willing to learn from various sources.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The word of wisdom is the lost property of the believer. Wherever he finds it, he is most deserving of it.”

(Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2687)

Thursday, December 02, 2021

"of elephants and blind men" by david meng

 "Of elephants and blind men" by David Meng

grenada's past

 I don't want to do a lot of public navel-gazing on here but a certain amount seems unavoidable. From 2005 - 2010 I was blogging over 200 times a year. After 2011 I was down to a couple of times a month and then only a few times a year. This month I've started to blog a lot more frequently and I'd like to continue this uptick.... at least for a while. Let's see what my work schedule allows....

Also, as I've made a return to blogging I've started to go back and look at old posts. I now realize that, unfortunately, my tendency to share links to content I found interesting did not age very well and so a non-trivial fraction links to pages and blogs are no longer functioning. This means that some parts of Planet Grenada are like an internet graveyard. Occasionally I can fix the links for some content which can still be found elsewhere, but other times there is no real solution (which I hope folks can forgive).

elephant by beauchamp


I saw this on the Etsy page for Gregory Beauchamp

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

quarreling over names

A man gave four persons a silver coin. The (first) one (who was a Persian) said, "I will give this for (buying) some angûr."

An other one (who) was an Arab said, "No! I want `inab -- not
angûr, O deceitful (man)!"

The (third) one was a Turk and he said, "This (coin) is mine. I
don't want `inab. I want üzüm."

The (fourth) one, an Anatolian Greek, said, "Quit (all) this talk! I
want istâfîl."

3685 In (their) disagreement, those individuals were (soon) in a
fight -- since they were uninformed of the hidden (meaning) of the

They were striking at each other (with their) fists out of ignorance.
They were full of foolishness and (were) devoid of knowledge.

If a master of (the meaning of) secrets, a venerable one (with
knowledge) of numerous languages, had been there, he would
have given them reconciliation and peace.

Then he would have said, "By means of this one silver coin, I will
grant the wishes of all of you.

"This coin will cause effects such as these when you submit (your)
hearts (to me) without deceit.

"Your one coin will become (like) four (coins) for the desired
(result). (And) four enemies will become (as) one from unity (of

"The words of each one of you offer (only) fighting and separation.
But my words will bring you harmonious agreement.

"Therefore, you be quiet (and) stay silent! So that I may
become your tongue for (needed) conversation."

-- Rumi

Dar-al-Masnavi: Quarreling Over Names

Mughal painting of the blind men and the elephant, from the 1600s AD (now in Walters Art Museum)

the blind men and the elephant by katsushika hokusai

The Blind Men and the Elephant, by Katsushika Hokusai
The illustration, which accompanies this story is a Japanese version drawn by the famous artist Hokusai (1760-1849) and taken from his collected prints in the Mangwa- Vol. 8, in which he increases the number of blind men to eleven. Because of the fact that in Japan (according to a recent book) elephants are rather uncommon we can well believe that this fable in Japan was borrowed from China or India.

blind men examining an elephant

Blind men (here, monks) examining an elephant by Japanese painter, poet and calligrapher Hanabusa Itchō (1652–1724) 


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

elephant in the dark

"Elephant in the Dark" (trans. Coleman Barks)

Some Hindus have an elephant to show.
No one here has ever seen an elephant.
They bring it at night to a dark room.
One by one, we go in the dark and come out
saying how we experience the animal.
One of us happens to touch the trunk.
"A water-pipe kind of creature."
Another, the ear. "A very strong, always moving
back and forth, fan-animal."
Another, the leg. "I find it still,
like a column on a temple."
Another touches the curved back.
"A leathery throne."
Another, the cleverest, feels the tusk.
"A rounded sword made of porcelain."
He's proud of his description.
Each of us touches one place
and understands the whole in that way.
The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark are
how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.
If each of us held a candle there,
and if we went in together,
we could see it.


the elephant in a dark room

 The Elephant in a Dark Room (trans. E.H. Whinfield)

Some Hindoos were exhibiting an elephant in a dark room, and many people collected to see it. But as the place was too dark to permit them to see the elephant, they all felt it with their hands, to gain an idea of what it was like. One felt its trunk, and declared that the beast resembled a water-pipe; another felt its ear, and said it must be a large fan; another its leg, and thought it must be a pillar; another felt its back, and declared the beast must be like a great throne. According to the part which each felt, he gave a different description of the animal.

The eye of outward sense is as the palm of a hand,
The whole of the object is not grasped in the palm.
The sea itself is one thing, the foam another;
Neglect the foam, and regard the sea with your eyes.
Waves of foam rise from the sea night and day,
You look at the foam ripples and not the mighty sea.
We, like boats, are tossed hither and thither,
We are blind though we are on the bright ocean.
Ah! you who are asleep in the boat of the body,
You see the water; behold the Water of waters!
Under the water you see there is another Water moving it,
Within the spirit is a Spirit that calls it.
Keep silence that you may hear Him speaking
Words unutterable by tongue in speech.
Keep silence, that you may hear from that Sun
Things inexpressible in books and discourses.


"an elephant is soft and mushy"


I remember seeing this image many years ago in a book of cartoons by Sam Gross with the title, "An Elephant is Soft and Mushy". I think it came out around the same time that Gary Larson's "The Far Side" cartoons were really popular. (And both cartoonists used a similar witty, bizarre one-panel style). This cartoon is a playful riff off of the famous fable of the blind men and the elephant (which I will try to explore over several posts).   Gross' work generally didn't make as much of an impression on me as Larson's but this one obviously stuck with me. The only other cartoon I remember of his also combined the scatological and the religious and was captioned "Jesus (as) turns wine into water" (and I will not be sharing the image but you can imagine it).

Monday, November 29, 2021

salman sheikh & babism

For a while now I've been checking out videos from Salman Sheikh. He's an interesting cat. He seems to be a Muslim and a Mason who wants to explore connections between Masonry and lots of other religious systems. He has a couple videos interacting with members of the Babi movement. (I'm not certain if he would identify as a Babi but he has a really positive non-judgemental demeanor where he seems to vibe with whoever he's speaking with.)

I thought this video was a bit more accessible than others as an entry point. I'm definitely not a Babi or even Shia but they seem to have some valid criticisms of the Bahai movement and they are interesting as a kind of "Islamicate" liberation theology.


Planet Grenada:

"thy law has been burned, and so no one knows the things which have been done or will be done by thee"

Another point in time when the Biblical text was incredibly vulnerable to change and modification was the Babylonian capitivity. The Temple had been destroyed. Fundamental religious institutions had been disrupted. And knowledge of the law was essentially gone. In that time of "Jahiliyyah", Ezra had a mission to reform his society by rewritting the scriptures.

As we read in 4 Ezra (2 Esdras in many English translations), chapter 14:
[20] For behold, I will go, as thou hast commanded me, and I will reprove the people who are now living; but who will warn those who will be born hereafter? For the world lies in darkness, and its inhabitants are without light.
[21] For thy law has been burned, and so no one knows the things which have been done or will be done by thee.
[22] If then I have found favor before thee, send the Holy Spirit into me, and I will write everything that has happened in the world from the beginning, the things which were written in thy law, that men may be able to find the path, and that those who wish to live in the last days may live."
[23] He answered me and said, "Go and gather the people, and tell them not to seek you for forty days
[24] But prepare for yourself many writing tablets, and take with you Sarea, Dabria, Selemia, Ethanus, and Asiel -- these five, because they are trained to write rapidly;
[25] and you shall come here, and I will light in your heart the lamp of understanding, which shall not be put out until what you are about to write is finished.
[26] And when you have finished, some things you shall make public, and some you shall deliver in secret to the wise; tomorrow at this hour you shall begin to write."
[27] Then I went as he commanded me, and I gathered all the people together, and said,
[28] "Hear these words, O Israel
[29] At first our fathers dwelt as aliens in Egypt, and they were delivered from there,
[30] and received the law of life, which they did not keep, which you also have transgressed after them.
[31] Then land was given to you for a possession in the land of Zion; but you and your fathers committed iniquity and did not keep the ways which the Most High commanded you.
[32] And because he is a righteous judge, in due time he took from you what he had given.
[33] And now you are here, and your brethren are farther in the interior.
[34] If you, then, will rule over your minds and discipline your hearts, you shall be kept alive, and after death you shall obtain mercy.
[35] For after death the judgment will come, when we shall live again; and then the names of the righteous will become manifest, and the deeds of the ungodly will be disclosed.
[36] But let no one come to me now, and let no one seek me for forty days."
[37] So I took the five men, as he commanded me, and we proceeded to the field, and remained there.
[38] And on the next day, behold, a voice called me, saying, "Ezra, open your mouth and drink what I give you to drink."
[39] Then I opened my mouth, and behold, a full cup was offered to me; it was full of something like water, but its color was like fire.
[40] And I took it and drank; and when I had drunk it, my heart poured forth understanding, and wisdom increased in my breast, for my spirit retained its memory;
[41] and my mouth was opened, and was no longer closed.
[42] And the Most High gave understanding to the five men, and by turns they wrote what was dictated, in characters which they did not know. They sat forty days, and wrote during the daytime, and ate their bread at night.
[43] As for me, I spoke in the daytime and was not silent at night.
[44] So during the forty days ninety-four books were written.
[45] And when the forty days were ended, the Most High spoke to me, saying, "Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first and let the worthy and the unworthy read them;
[46] but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people.
[47] For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the river of knowledge."
[48] And I did so.

So it seems like the Bible is saying that previous scriptures were miraculously re-revealed after being lost. But another possibility is that the texts were redacted at this point. 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

if it was found, that means it was lost, right?

A lot of evangelical Christians have an unrealistic and simplistic picture of the continuity  of the Bible. For instance, sometimes you see the claim that it would have been impossible for the text of the Torah  to have changed because there were just too many copies and the text was too spread out. But in reality there were several  moments when the text was incredibly vulnerable  to change. An interesting account can be seen in the Bible itself. 
[3] In the eighteenth year of King Josi'ah, the king sent Shaphan the son of Azali'ah, son of Meshul'lam, the secretary, to the house of the LORD, saying,
[4] "Go up to Hilki'ah the high priest, that he may reckon the amount of the money which has been brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people;
[5] and let it be given into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD; and let them give it to the workmen who are at the house of the LORD, repairing the house,
[6] that is, to the carpenters, and to the builders, and to the masons, as well as for buying timber and quarried stone to repair the house.
[7] But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money which is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly."
[8] And Hilki'ah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD." And Hilki'ah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.

In other words, the Torah was found in the Temple (implying that it was lost before this point). And lest you want to argue that this was just some kind of redundant  copy, consider the way the king and others seem to respond to the Torah as if it were new information. 
[9] And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, "Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD."
[10] Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, "Hilki'ah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read it before the king.
[11] And when the king heard the words of the book of the law, he rent his clothes.
[12] And the king commanded Hilki'ah the priest, and Ahi'kam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micai'ah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asai'ah the king's servant, saying,
[13] "Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us."

In other words, at this time, the children of Israel were at a particularly low point in terms of knowing and obeying the law, so much so that when the king read the book of the law he was genuinely shocked about what it said. 

[1]Then the king sent, and all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem were gathered to him.
[2] And the king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD.
[3] And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book; and all the people joined in the covenant.

So things got so bad that the king felt a need for the people of Judah to rededicate themselves to following the Torah The next dozen or so verses then go into vivid detail about how deeply entrenched paganism had become in the land and what steps had to be taken to uproot it.

[4] And the king commanded Hilki'ah, the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Ba'al, for Ashe'rah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel.
[5] And he deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places at the cities of Judah and round about Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Ba'al, to the sun, and the moon, and the constellations, and all the host of the heavens.
[6] And he brought out the Ashe'rah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people.
[7] And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the Ashe'rah.

So even in the Temple in Jerusalem there had been idol worship and cult prostitutes! 

[8] And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beer-sheba; and he broke down the
high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one's left at the gate of the city.
[9] However, the priests of the high places did not come up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread among their brethren.
[10] And he defiled To'pheth, which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech.
[11] And he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the precincts; and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire.
[12] And the altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manas'seh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, he pulled down and broke in pieces, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.
[13] And the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had built for Ash'toreth the abomination of the Sido'nians, and for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
[14] And he broke in pieces the pillars, and cut down the Ashe'rim, and filled their places with the bones of men.
[15] Moreover the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jerobo'am the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and he broke in pieces its stones, crushing them to dust; also he burned the Ashe'rah.
[16] And as Josi'ah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount; and he sent and took the bones out of the tombs, and burned them upon the altar, and defiled it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things.
[17] Then he said, "What is yonder monument that I see?" And the men of the city told him, "It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things which you have done against the altar at Bethel."
[18] And he said, "Let him be; let no man move his bones." So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came out of Sama'ria.
[19] And all the shrines also of the high places that were in the cities of Sama'ria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the LORD to anger, Josi'ah removed; he did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel.
[20] And he slew all the priests of the high places who were there, upon the altars, and burned the bones of men upon them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

Things had gotten so bad that people had even stopped keeping Passover.

[21] And the king commanded all the people, "Keep the passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this book of the covenant."
[22] For no such passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah;
[23] but in the eighteenth year of King Josi'ah this passover was kept to the LORD in Jerusalem.
[24] Moreover Josi'ah put away the mediums and the wizards and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilki'ah the priest found in the house of the LORD.
[25] Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.
[26] Still the LORD did not turn from the fierceness of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manas'seh had provoked him.
[27] And the LORD said, "I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city which I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there."
[28] Now the rest of the acts of Josi'ah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

So what am I trying to say here? Maybe we can take the story at face value and the Torah was lost and then found intact. But if we are even just a little bit skeptical, this moment of Josiah's reforms presents a perfect opportunity for the text to have been redacted.

Allahu alim.