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February 26, 2008

Turkey is radically revising the Hadith
Posted by Teresa at 04:38 PM *

Fragano Ledgister sent me this link, saying “I’ve a feeling that the US media won’t pay much attention to this.” I don’t know whether they will or not, but the news certainly made my jaw drop.

Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts

Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam—and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion.

The country’s powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran.

The Hadith is a collection of thousands of sayings reputed to come from the Prophet Muhammad. As such, it is the principal guide for Muslims in interpreting the Koran and the source of the vast majority of Islamic law, or Sharia.

The Koran has immense authority, but it doesn’t cover every possible subject, and not everything it says is explained in detail. To fill the gap, early Muslims collected the Hadith: in theory, either statements made by the Prophet, or actions taken by him, or the Prophet’s commendations of actions taken by others. Between the action and the collection falls the oral tradition.
But the Turkish state has come to see the Hadith as having an often negative influence on a society it is in a hurry to modernise, and believes it responsible for obscuring the original values of Islam. It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad, and even some that were need now to be reinterpreted.

‘Reformation’

Commentators say the very theology of Islam is being reinterpreted in order to effect a radical renewal of the religion. Its supporters say the spirit of logic and reason inherent in Islam at its foundation 1,400 years ago are being rediscovered. Some believe it could represent the beginning of a reformation in the religion.

Turkish officials have been reticent about the revision of the Hadith until now, aware of the controversy it is likely to cause among traditionalist Muslims, but they have spoken to the BBC about the project, and their ambitious aims for it.

That is in the running for the top ten understatements I’ve seen in my lifetime.
The forensic examination of the Hadiths has taken place in Ankara University’s School of Theology. An adviser to the project, Felix Koerner, says some of the sayings—also known individually as “hadiths”—can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society.

“Unfortunately you can even justify through alleged hadiths, the Muslim—or pseudo-Muslim—practice of female genital mutilation,” he says. “You can find messages which say ‘that is what the Prophet ordered us to do’. But you can show historically how they came into being, as influences from other cultures, that were then projected onto Islamic tradition.”

The argument is that Islamic tradition has been gradually hijacked by various—often conservative—cultures, seeking to use the religion for various forms of social control. Leaders of the Hadith project say successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad himself.

Call me a text-interrogating child of the Western critical tradition, but I’d have thought it was astonishing if successive generations hadn’t tried to push forward their various agendas by attributing them to the Prophet.
Revolutionary

Turkey is intent on sweeping away that “cultural baggage” and returning to a form of Islam it claims accords with its original values and those of the Prophet.

Ah, the traditional claim of religious reformers: “We’re just returning to the original form and faith of our religion.” Whatever would we do without it?
But this is where the revolutionary nature of the work becomes apparent. Even some sayings accepted as being genuinely spoken by Muhammad have been altered and reinterpreted. …

As part of its aggressive programme of renewal, Turkey has given theological training to 450 women, and appointed them as senior imams called “vaizes”. They have been given the task of explaining the original spirit of Islam to remote communities in Turkey’s vast interior.

One of the women, Hulya Koc, looked out over a sea of headscarves at a town meeting in central Turkey and told the women of the equality, justice and human rights guaranteed by an accurate interpretation of the Koran—one guided and confirmed by the revised Hadith.

She says that, at the moment, Islam is being widely used to justify the violent suppression of women. “There are honour killings,” she explains. “We hear that some women are being killed when they marry the wrong person or run away with someone they love. There’s also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment by uncles and others. This does not exist in Islam… we have to explain that to them.”

Is it hypocrisy to claim that doesn’t exist in Islam? Not as long as you’re working to make it true. Asserting that the thing you love most is too good to have n bad thing in it is part of the normal processes of spiritual renewal. It beats the heck out of saying n bad thing must be okay because it’s part of the thing you love most.
‘New Islam’

According to Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey from Chatham House in London, Turkey is doing nothing less than recreating Islam—changing it from a religion whose rules must be obeyed, to one designed to serve the needs of people in a modern secular democracy. He says that to achieve it, the state is fashioning a new Islam.

“This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation,” he says. “Not exactly the same, but if you think, it’s changing the theological foundations of [the] religion. ” Fadi Hakura believes that until now secularist Turkey has been intent on creating a new politics for Islam. Now, he says, “they are trying to fashion a new Islam.”

Significantly, the “Ankara School” of theologians working on the new Hadith have been using Western critical techniques and philosophy. They have also taken an even bolder step—rejecting a long-established rule of Muslim scholars that later (and often more conservative) texts override earlier ones.

“You have to see them as a whole,” says Fadi Hakura. “You can’t say, for example, that the verses of violence override the verses of peace. This is used a lot in the Middle East, this kind of ideology. I cannot impress enough how fundamental [this change] is.”

I can’t express how fundamental a change this is either. If you can look at the Hadith as a whole, and subject it to the full battery of textual criticism, historical and linguistic analysis, document verification techniques, and other disciplines that have grown up around Bible scholarship and the study of other early religious texts, you’re in a different world.
Comments on Turkey is radically revising the Hadith:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 05:25 PM:

It's going to be really interesting, especially for people in Turkey. (About time that someone did this kind of study.)

#2 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 05:36 PM:

Wow . . . I hope they can pull it off.

#3 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 05:40 PM:

The only official translation of the Quran is the Turkish one, so they may be able to pull it off, and they do have a precedent.

#5 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 06:01 PM:

The analogy with the Reformation is almost frightening, recalling what religion was used to justify within Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. And earlier.

And perhaps it was lucky that The Holy Land wasn't under Christian control during that turmoil. There wasn't anything like the current status of Mecca, under the thumb of a particularly extreme version of Islam, which is likely to lose a lot of hadiths in its favour.

(To be honest, I can't see the Prophet approving of women not being permitted to escape a burning building because they were improperly dressed.)

And Islam, while it includes a lot of rural primitivism, also includes some very different traditions. Consider, for example, Indonesia, and wonder how, once the idea of critical analysis takes off, how people might start saying, "But we don't live in a desert."

And then there's the whole Shia/Sunni split.

Anyway, I doubt this story will play in Bradford. Front page news in the print paper.

Though todays front page story in The Sun was a chilling announcement that 99% of their readers wanted the death penalty to be brought back. This newspaper is owned by the same people as Fox News.

I feel sick.

#6 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 06:01 PM:

The analogy with the Reformation is almost frightening, recalling what religion was used to justify within Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. And earlier.

And perhaps it was lucky that The Holy Land wasn't under Christian control during that turmoil. There wasn't anything like the current status of Mecca, under the thumb of a particularly extreme version of Islam, which is likely to lose a lot of hadiths in its favour.

(To be honest, I can't see the Prophet approving of women not being permitted to escape a burning building because they were improperly dressed.)

And Islam, while it includes a lot of rural primitivism, also includes some very different traditions. Consider, for example, Indonesia, and wonder how, once the idea of critical analysis takes off, how people might start saying, "But we don't live in a desert."

And then there's the whole Shia/Sunni split.

Anyway, I doubt this story will play in Bradford. Front page news in the print paper.

Though todays front page story in The Sun was a chilling announcement that 99% of their readers wanted the death penalty to be brought back. This newspaper is owned by the same people as Fox News.

I feel sick.

#7 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 06:05 PM:

Well, I think I know some of what happened there. My ISP seemed to lose contact with Making Light for a while, but I only saw the "preview" page once. There may have been two identical messages queued when I hit "post".

(the annoying this about ISP-generated error messages, at the user end, is that they can mask what's going on.)

#8 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 06:17 PM:

I wish them luck, health and long life.

#9 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 06:30 PM:

I'm afraid that this will cause a sea of blood when the fanatics start focusing on this. Teresa, remember the article I sent you about a month ago? Might be a good time to post that too...

#10 ::: Rozasharn ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 06:55 PM:

Saying "[violence against women] does not exist in Islam" is perfectly reasonable. It means violence against women is contrary to Islamic principles. Or in other words, "When you hit your wife and children you make the Prophet cry."

#11 ::: Krinn DNZ ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 07:10 PM:

Re: And Islam, while it includes a lot of rural primitivism, also includes some very different traditions. Consider, for example, Indonesia, and wonder how, once the idea of critical analysis takes off, how people might start saying, "But we don't live in a desert."

Consider, for example, America, and wonder how, once the idea of critical analysis [of the Bible] takes off, how people might start saying "But we don't live in a desert."

I remain hopeful, but effecting a change in the popularly practiced version of the religion is a big task. The Turkish government's idea of sending out proselytes is encouraging, but could backfire.

#12 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 07:22 PM:

Just wow. There doesn't seem to be any way to talk about it other than by understatement. Anything appropriate to the extent of this effort sounds like a tabloid, that is to say, not useful for polite discourse. Just wow.

#13 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 07:27 PM:

Wonderful news. I wish them the best of success.

I'm curious about the politics. The reform is commissioned by the government Department of Religious Affairs. I assume the Department answers to Parliament. The party in government is the Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by Prime Minister Erdoğan. I remember they got some heat from the Turkish military because of ties to the former Islamic Welfare Party, which was dissolved in a coup. By modernizing religion, the reform could help solve Turkey's long-running conflict between religion and modernism. The military's approach of crushing any movement that could turn Turkey back into a religious state (like the Ottoman Empire) is heavy-handed. This offers the hope of a peaceful solution, of religion that can be tolerated because it doesn't have to be feared. The other thing I'm thinking is if Turkey can pull this off, they're bid for EU membership would get a huge boost.

#14 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 07:30 PM:

s/they're/their/.

#15 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 07:40 PM:

Whether the Isnad of various Hadith are Munkar has been a huge topic of study for 1500 years. By doing this, I suspect we're going to be seeing a major split in the religion, and denunciation by the majority of Shia.

We may possibly be looking at the birth of another major denomination of Islam, especially considering their evangelization methods and state sponsored status.

I agree with Teresa, this is huge, massively important news and anyone with any understanding of Islam in the media should treat this as one of the most important stories of the last three years.

I suspect that there will be huge shockwaves due to this through the Muslim world for at least the next few months, if not the next few years.

#16 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 07:44 PM:

The clerics in both Saudi Arabia and Iran are not gonna like this.

#17 ::: Jim Parish ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 07:47 PM:

A question: what impact will the fact that this is coming out of Turkey have? Given the historical animosity between Turkey and Iran, and given (resentful?) memories of the Ottoman Empire among Arabs, will that hinder acceptance of the proposed revisions?

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 08:15 PM:

I note that there's a comment on this report with additional comments on the Guardian website.

#19 ::: R. Emrys ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 08:23 PM:

Krinn DNZ @ #11: Consider, for example, America, and wonder how, once the idea of critical analysis [of the Bible] takes off, how people might start saying "But we don't live in a desert."

Where I grew up, we called that "Reform Judaism."

This type of movement doesn't wipe out fundamentalism. But it does make things more comfortable for the non-fundamentalists, and give them room to grow.

#20 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 08:30 PM:

This isn't the very first leakage of modern criticism, just very early.

I have a couple of bookmarks for a review of Die syro-aramaeische Lesart des Koran; Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Qur’ānsprache, and a linky post from ParaPundit on "Newsweek Article About Christoph Luxenberg On Koran Banned In Pakistan".

Interesting times.

#21 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 08:36 PM:

What Lydy wowed, that also do I wow.

#23 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 09:04 PM:

Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Islam?

#24 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 09:08 PM:

So ... it's Euroislam. Cool.

#25 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 09:24 PM:

I read about this this morning, and actually had to put down my figurative pen and think for a while. It's just conceivable that this is world-changing news. Will the Turks have the courage to carry it through, or will they back down in the face of criticism? And if they don't back down, will there be a schism with increased violence, or will things go relatively peacefully?

#26 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 09:27 PM:

Wow.

In 20 years, the whole planet could be completely transformed by this to something so amazingly unrecognizable that it would be like a singularity, or it might backfire to the point that the world is scorched earth by 2020.

The fact that it is a transformation that seems to be happening from within, rather than by imposition from outside (I could see George Bush trying to do this), gives me hope that they might pull off something really amazing here.

Wow.

Just wow.

#27 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 09:43 PM:

Given that Google indexes Making Light, it is not safe to discuss this topic here.

Ummm, given that Google indexes Making Light, it is not safe to discuss whether or not this topic is safe to discuss here.

I'm so hosed when the Islamic revolution comes....

#28 ::: Dave Klecha ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 09:43 PM:

Even "revolutionary" would seem to be an exercise in understatement.

The parallels with that other reformation are pretty fascinating.

Best of luck on the effort, and I think the ripples are going to carry on for decades, at least. This is monumental stuff.

#29 ::: Jim Satterfield ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 09:45 PM:

Unfortunately I find myself picturing a very nasty bombing at Ankara University or perhaps an attack by a good sized group of armed men. But then there would be a backlash and hopefully it would be a huge one.

#30 ::: Joy ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 09:48 PM:

Re: This type of movement doesn't wipe out fundamentalism. But it does make things more comfortable for the non-fundamentalists, and give them room to grow.

In Christianity, interestingly enough, fundamentalism emerged as the traditionalist's reaction to the liberal movement. Its emergence in Islam is likely to be as polarizing.

#31 ::: Joy ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 09:50 PM:

By "its emergence" above I mean the emergence of a modern/critical/"liberal" approach to the text. Not the emergence of fundamentalism, as in Islam it's obviously already emerged.

#32 ::: Gursky ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 09:55 PM:

All of this, as exciting as it is to see happen, needs to be taken with a big mouthful of epsom salts.

This study is being funded by the Turkish government. The recent populist upwelling of orthodoxy brought about by an influx of poor easterners to Turkish metropolitan areas aside, the modern Turkish state has always been violently secular. The secular segments of the population, many of whom are still Muslims (and thus reject evolution, abortion, divorce, etc.) see themselves as a bastion of reason in their area, the intellectual descendents of Ataturk. And while modern turkish secularism has a frantic reactionary flavor to it, it has never been the most liberal or well-reasoned of movements. The military, for instance, is a bastion of Turkish secularism, and has used it as an excuse for at least three separate coups of state. The denial of the Armenian genocide, the imprisonment of those who dare write about it, and, recently, the murder of one outspoken Armenian editor, are all part of Turkey's violently nationalist secular heritage. Ankara, a city literally built up from nothing by Ataturk, is a shrine to the man and his secular cause akin to Pyongyang. That this research is being done there is a powerful statement.

The politics in Turkey essentially come down to repressive Islam or repressive secularism. The revision of the founding documents of one by the largely upper middle class scions of the other is exciting, yes, but the motives here are suspect.

#33 ::: Gursky ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 10:00 PM:

Here's a recent article in Dissent that discusses the religious politics of Turkey a bit.

#34 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 10:01 PM:

Gursky, whatever the motives, once the genie's out of the bottle it's darned hard to put it back in.

#35 ::: B Ross ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 10:03 PM:

The BBC article is quite misleading , even to the point of obfuscation. It’s hard to tell what is actually going on in Turkey. In the first place, the multitude of hadith have been traditionally known in a number of collections, each with their own particularities as to generally accepted reliability. Hadith that appear in the majority of collections have a patina of acceptability that those appearing in fewer places do not have. Secondly, each hadith in a certain collection has a chain of authority, called an isnad, which can either lend the hadith greater or lesser credibility. The study of hadith and this particular way of vouching for authenticity through isnads has been a discipline within the greater field of Islamic law throughout the history of Islam. This is only to say that the authorities in Turkey, whoever they may be, are not necessarily creating anything new out of whole cloth.The study of isnad has traditionally included the following (and probably other things I am missing)- are the persons who (1) first heard the prophet say something or (2) did someone close to the prophet hear something and is he/she contemporary with the source; are those who follow in the chain close enough to overlap in lifespan; are they (any and all of them) persons of reputable standing, i.e. not known liars; are there gaps in the chain of persons such that there is some point at which the purported witnessing is suspect.

However this has been judged in the case of any particular hadith gives it some exact weight as to reliability, and then, depending on the subject of the saying, and whether or not it is something that is well addressed in the Quran, the particular hadith has some particular gravity, can give a sense of how some matter might be judged in law, also depending on the school of law in which the issue is being judged.

Taking all of this into account, I am left wondering just exactly what it is that these Turkish scholars are doing. It is unclear from the BBC account in what way their activities differ from those of their forebears, and to what extent they are interpreting or emphasizing various traditions or bodies of tradition in ways that may differ from what has been traditionally accepted. My sense is that much of the folk interpretation that seems patently objectionable to many people has been at variance with long held scholarly interpretations, but that the acceptance of those folk interpretations has prevailed due to a wide acceptance of local variations in Islam.

#36 ::: Kristen Chew ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 10:15 PM:

There really is no way of understating the 'wow' of this. It truly is comparable to the Protestant Reformation in audacity and scale, and on religious, social, and political levels. Do expect schisms; do expect explosions and other violent acts. A true reformation does not come easily at the best of times, and that's not now.

However, I do believe that the Turks can get this done, if anyone can: they have a history of a strong centralized and controlling government, a very strong sense of themselves as a nation (both practically and idealistically), and a ruthless hand in enforcing centralized decisions. Additionally, they have a strong history of secularism, since Ataturk, which may also be helpful to them.

This is remarkably, amazingly, shockingly brave. I never expected to hear of this kind of thing in my own lifetime.

#37 ::: David Perry ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 10:24 PM:

Thanks for linking to this, I agree with B. Ross, above, that the BBC is off.

What a lot of commentators (I don't just mean on this blog entry, but in general) seem to miss is that Islam has often, throughout its history, embraced adaptability. The hadiths were an aspect of that adaptability, not used as canon, but as a way to let Islam grow. This is even more true with sharia - yes, it's strict, and it's supposed to be because it gets paired with fiqh, which is innately flexible. Together, they achieve a pretty harmonious balance and let Islam grow over time.

But Islam, like Christianity, has always had a pull from those who would be flexible and those wanting to revert to their conception of a Bedouin mentality.

Anyway, now I have making light on RSS, so ... hooray!

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 10:28 PM:

*circles fists and hips*

Go Turkey! Go Turkey! Go! Go! Go! Go Turkey...(etc.)

#39 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 11:49 PM:

There's a long history of governments trying to intervene in religious development, with widely varying degrees of credibility given to them. Think Frederick III and Lutheranism vs. Henry VIII and Anglicanism vs. the Communist Party of China and Tibetan Buddhism (or Catholicism).

I'm not sure where Turkey's actions fit in this spectrum, particularly for Muslims outside Turkey. I'm under the impression that fundamentalists didn't trust the Turkish state even before, what with their doing away with the Caliphate and their various aggressive secularizing campaigns.

And if Turkey's intervention is seen as overriding revelation for secular political ends, I could see a lot of devout, non-fundamentalist Muslims also reacting negatively to it. Even if associated scholars are doing sound work, if they're seen to be cooperating with a heavy-handed attempt to subordinate God to government, it could well taint the entire project in the eyes of many religious.

#40 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 11:51 PM:

It is told to us by a long and unbroken isnaad of men of good character, known for their memories and their precision, that holy shit.

#41 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:47 AM:

I had the same kinds of thoughts as Gursky at #32 and John Mark Ockerbloom at #39...that it's a state doing this makes me wonder. I don't know nearly enough about Turkey or the Hadith to be able to judge this for myself, so as it develops I'm going to need to find some damn reliable guides to help me through it.

I would also like to reiterate the boggle.

#42 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:06 AM:

There is a lot I want to say here...but I think probably not appropriate for ML.

I hope that this turns out for the best. My fear is that the backlash from fundamental and extremists is going to be wicked.

I admire Turkey's bravery. It's amazing stuff.

#43 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:16 AM:

I seriously doubt that this is going to be the Muslim Reformation. For one thing, Islam is already highly distributed--there is no central church. Not only does that mean that there's already a huge amount of religious variation, it also means there's no means of distribution for this new set of hadith. Why should Muslims in Indonesia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Germany care about what some Turkish academics do? The hadith they're working from are probably different anyway.

The only place where I can see this reformation really catching on is among Muslims living in the West who are trying to reconcile their religion with their new culture. There, this might be very appealing. I think that R. Emrys @ 19 gets closest: this isn't going to do as much to defeat fundamentalism as it will to allow moderates to carve out a space for themselves within Islam. Which is a good thing, of course, and perhaps even world-changing.

Michael Roberts @ 24: "So ... it's Euroislam. Cool."

I can guarantee you that if that's how it's perceived by Muslims, then it's doomed.

Joy @ 30: "In Christianity, interestingly enough, fundamentalism emerged as the traditionalist's reaction to the liberal movement. Its emergence in Islam is likely to be as polarizing."

@ 31: "By "its emergence" above I mean the emergence of a modern/critical/"liberal" approach to the text. Not the emergence of fundamentalism, as in Islam it's obviously already emerged."

I could believe that liberalism and fundamentalism are mutually causative: that if one appears, the other will inevitably follow. If so, there wouldn't be any reason to think that this liberalizing push will ignite much of a fundamentalist blowback--this is the blowback.

David Perry @ 37: "What a lot of commentators (I don't just mean on this blog entry, but in general) seem to miss is that Islam has often, throughout its history, embraced adaptability."

Which isn't the same as saying that that (quite neat) adaptability is still alive and present in modern Islam. Especially in regards to the hadith, adaptability and innovation hasn't been a big part of Islamic law since the 12th century. If this move serves to re-awaken that adaptability (or heralds its return), that would be worth celebrating.

#44 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:20 AM:

What makes Turkey different is that it is so strongly a secular state. Islam doesn't have the same sort of church/state split which Christianity has. The Prophet and his immediate successors were both religious and secular leaders.

#45 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:32 AM:

It is asked, what is new about this Turkish work on the Hadith?

Does anyone else recall the recent rediscovery of a German archive of photographic copies of early Islamic texts?

Have Islamic scholars been studying the actual words, as well as tracing the labelling? I'm thinking here of how the language used in a TV programme showing Shakespeare, attempting to be authentic, might still be distinguishable from authentic 16th Century texts. I'm not sure, from B. Ross's description. if the texts have been analysed in this way.

It is, however, the sort of analysis which might reveal that certain texts, purporting to have been set down by the same source, originated at different times. And that would challenge past judgements of reliability.

#46 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:51 AM:

With all this talking Turkey, isn't S*rd*r *rg*c going to pop up here any minute, though?

#47 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:52 AM:

Dave Bell, I got that link from Robert Glaub, and particled it back in late January: The lost archive of texts of the Koran, found.

B. Ross, I'd say the Turkish government is using the BBC to break the news. If so, the story is as obfuscatory as they want it to be.

#48 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 08:49 AM:

I love it when there's news that if you read it in SF you'd say "Oh come on!"

This is something where it's hard to see even the first order consequences. Right in this thread we have people saying it's nothing, that it's very good, that it's very bad, that it's a little flexibility but that's all... with something like this you can't know and even good guesses are hard.

Interesting times.

#49 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:51 AM:

I just talked to a friend of mine in Istanbul about this and he says he's heard nothing about it on the news there. Which is not to say that the BBC made this up, but it's peculiar that something this big wouldn't be more prominent in the news in the country where it's happening. His first reaction, by the way, was also to agree that this is potentially a very good thing.

#50 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:59 AM:

One possibility that occurs to me as a result of this is an upsurge in conversions. Islam has a lot of attractive qualities to someone unsatisfied with their current beliefs. The lack of hierarchy, and the emphasis on orthopraxy over orthodoxy, for example.

Heck, the prohibition of usury and the charitable obligations alone are gonna start looking pretty good to people as Western financial institutions continue to unravel.

A modern, reformed Islam without the oppressive Bedouin mentality could sweep up large numbers of disaffected Westerners, and there's no telling where that could lead.

#51 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 10:04 AM:

It may be the flu talking, but what kept running through my head as I read this was, "They're gonna get killed. Especially the women."

#52 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 10:12 AM:

HP @50: Eurabia?

#53 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:15 PM:

I as well can boggle, repeat the "wow", fail to see all of the possible outcomes, and emphasize that one of the spectacularly bad possibilities is Turkey or portions thereof disappearing in a mushroom cloud of violent radical extremist dislike... I hope that the US, if/when it approaches Turkey to give them an "'Attaboy!" doesn't hurt them too much, given our current reputation...

To add something other than a "me too", I'm going to try and come up with a good question based on this news to bring up at Socrates Cafe tomorrow night. We've got several people who have some deep religious/history knowledge, of many faiths, and it would appear to be extremely good discussion fodder! (Especially when I'm not well learned in religious history and could learn a lot from such a discussion...)

I wonder what the more vocal members of the various flavors of US-style "Fundamentalist" Evangelical Christianity will have to say on the subject. (I put "Fundamentalist" in quotes to loosely/poorly/clumsily identify that portion of the Evangelical Christian movement in the US that pushes for such things as teaching Creationism in schools, nfrcd prgnncy, bstncn nl sx dctn, and other things I find personally objectionable (further parenthetical: disemvowelment mine, I wish not to start another thread on such things, nor hit those buttons hard...))

Later,
-cajun

#54 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:45 PM:

Interesting times, indeed. Especially in the context of a very recent development, in which the Turkish government has allowed women to wear headscarves at university.

(Meanwhile, in Germany, observant Muslim women who are public school teachers are not allowed to wear headscarves at school. Presumably symbols of other religions, such as yarmulkas or crucifixes, would/should be banned as well, but no one's going there. Note that religion is a required subject*, at least through the ninth grade.)

Somehow religion and politics seem to end up being inseparable.

*so far divided into Protestant and RC courses. Efforts to develop a Moslem curriculum have been hindered by the lack of an identifiable and acceptable-to-all-parties official representative.

#55 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:52 PM:

#45: "It is, however, the sort of analysis which might reveal that certain texts, purporting to have been set down by the same source, originated at different times."

This kind of analysis has been settled in scholarly circles for many decades with respect to the Judeo-Christian Bible, yet said scholarship hasn't done anything to counter the strength of Christian (and Jewish fundamentalism.

#56 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:24 PM:

B. Ross @ 35: The BBC article is quite misleading , even to the point of obfuscation. It’s hard to tell what is actually going on in Turkey. [snip] This is only to say that the authorities in Turkey, whoever they may be, are not necessarily creating anything new out of whole cloth. [snip]

I don't think that's necessarily true. I think that it's obvious that their revision is focusing on revising the isnad of the hadith using modern western standards. The current system emphasizes some passages over others, and accepts later hadith as more meaningful than earlier hadith.

I agree that they're probably not changing the actual sayings, but a major revision of the isnads could still have a serious impact on the religion.

I do suspect that the BBC phrased the article the way that they did because not everyone, even those well educated Brits, understand the terms of hadith such as isnad, matn, musnad, munqati, or munkar.

heresiarch @ 43: [...] it also means there's no means of distribution for this new set of hadith. Why should Muslims in Indonesia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Germany care about what some Turkish academics do? The hadith they're working from are probably different anyway. [snip]

Well, two points. One thing that has come from the reliance of Islam on Arabic is that there probably isn't as much difference in the hadith as there is between Christian denominations. So I disagree that this won't mean anything to Muslims throughout the world.

Second, the article points out that Turkey has created a means of distribution: they've trained 450 women to go forth and evangelize the revisions that they've made. That's a goodly number, and it could grow larger and extend further, if it manages to become self-perpetuating.

Also, even though I hate to say it, remember the power of martyrs. If these women are killed for this new religion, they may convert greater numbers to this new cause and entrench it further.

#57 ::: -dsr- ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:24 PM:

Didn't anyone read the appendices to DUNE? This sounds just like the CET's production of the Orange Catholic Bible.

Mucking in other people's religions - is it ethical?

#58 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:25 PM:

Spherical Time: #56 Turkey has created a means of distribution: they've trained 450 women to go forth and evangelize the revisions that they've made.

I don't see traditional tribal rapeocracies accepting that means of distribution with any detectable equanimity. I don't think that part of the plan will end well at all.

#59 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:34 PM:

I fully expect that some of those women will be martyred. I'm sure they know it's a possibility.

What does it matter to Muslims in Indonesia what Muslims do in Turkey? I don't know. What does it matter to Christians in England what Christians do in Germany?

Just because:

The text of four different editions of Foxe's Book of Martyrs.
Many illustrations from same.
John Foxe: Additional Resources.
Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer.
An earlier illustration of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer.

#60 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:49 PM:

elise, bite your tongue!

#61 ::: JupiterPluvius ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:26 PM:

Maybe we'll catch up to Turkey someday--female heads of state, federal anti-fundamentalism initiatives, national health care...

NAH! IT'LL NEVER WORK!

#62 ::: Bruce Purcell ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:57 PM:

What's that thing in Burton- 'though you flee on your blood mare, the Turk will catch you on his rented mule'? I don't think the Turks worry about Arabs.
Orange Catholic bible, or Roman Quran? Enquiring minds want to know.

#63 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:32 PM:

JupiterPluvius #61:Maybe we'll catch up to Turkey someday--female heads of state, federal anti-fundamentalism initiatives, national health care...

America still has a bigger genocide body count than Turkey, although, I've got to admit, it's not for lack of trying.

#64 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:22 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 58: I don't see traditional tribal rapeocracies accepting that means of distribution with any detectable equanimity. I don't think that part of the plan will end well at all.

I assume that due to the government sponsorship that these female imams are probably staring down the tribal rapeocracies with armed guards at their sides.

Teresa @ 59: This picture of the martyrdom of St. Anthony from your second link is . . . uh, I think more explicit than I would have expected.

#65 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:03 PM:

Spherical Time @ 56: "Well, two points. One thing that has come from the reliance of Islam on Arabic is that there probably isn't as much difference in the hadith as there is between Christian denominations. So I disagree that this won't mean anything to Muslims throughout the world."

Don't overestimate the importance of Arabic as a clerical language. Especially on the edges of Dar al-Islam, Arabic is roughly as relevant as Latin is in the modern West. (I have heard that Quranic Arabic isn't even very intelligible to modern Arabic speakers. Perhaps the difference between Latin to Italian would be a good analogy?) Suffice to say, it is a language widely spoken only by the clerisy. Your average Muslim probably can't speak it.

As for the variations in hadith collections, well, there's a huge amount of variation, and ongoing debate about which are reliable. Shi'ites and Sunnis predictably disagree, but even within those groups there's considerable disagreement.

"Second, the article points out that Turkey has created a means of distribution: they've trained 450 women to go forth and evangelize the revisions that they've made. That's a goodly number, and it could grow larger and extend further, if it manages to become self-perpetuating."

Well, if it becomes self-perpetuating. That's a big if, I think--there's quite a gap between 450 and 1.84 billion. There seems to be a unspoken belief among many of the commenters here that there's a deep desire among Muslims to modernize Islam, just waiting to leap forth. It could be so, but I'm not convinced--cultural oppression by the West is a much more popular target of public discontent. Muslims are very wary of people trying to force them to modernize, and quite understandably so: the record is pretty dismal, and attempts at reform have usually caused incredible dislocation. Trying to reconcile Islam with modernity, rather than sweeping Islam aside in favor of it, is the right approach, I think--but whether it will take is far from clear.

Earl Cooley III @ 58: "I don't see traditional tribal rapeocracies accepting that means of distribution with any detectable equanimity."

I'm just curious, Earl, if you would call, say, ancient Greece a 'rapeocracy?' What about modern Central America?

Teresa @ 59: "What does it matter to Muslims in Indonesia what Muslims do in Turkey? I don't know. What does it matter to Christians in England what Christians do in Germany?"

There's a considerably larger gap, geographically, culturally, linguistically, between Turkey and Indonesia than between England and Germany. Not to mention the religious differences.

#66 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:05 AM:

A friend of mine thinks the importance of this is being overstated. He says that Islamic scholars have always acknowledged that some of the Hadith are less authentic than others.

#67 ::: Harold Feld ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:07 AM:

I'm sorry, but this BBC story demonstrates such a profound and sensationalist view of the Hadith, what's going in in Turkey, and likely reaction in the rest of the Islamic world that it boggles my mind.

There is no Big Book O' aHadith, as this BBC article appears to imply. There are a number of cannonical collections of Hadith and the study of their authenticity, chain of authority, and the lessons to be drawn from them has been a matter of Islamic jurisprudence for centuries. There are a significant number of Hadith rejected by serious scholars as folk religion. There are debates between Sunni and Shia and Sufi on the validity, nature and interpretation of Hadith. There are Wahabi who preach certain things about Hadith that are regarded as bida (heresy) by other Islamic schools.

Turkey, because of its secular tradition since Ataturk, represents a particular approach. It will certainly engender discussion in the Islamic world and reaction from Wahabis and others. Bt the notion that this is recreating Islam as claimed by the article -- absent something more substantial than the tidbits quoted -- is ignorant sensationalism at its worst.

#68 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:35 AM:

Oh, wow. Will Islam stay in the dark ages or make a great leap forward to the 1500s? So we'll have a new religious faction. Woo. Why is this supposed to be even mildly interesting?

#69 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:39 AM:

Greg Ioannou #68 -- So you're saying that the creation of a new religious faction wouldn't be even mildly interesting?

#70 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:47 AM:

Wow, Greg, that's a pretty trollish kind of comment. It's pretty shocking coming from someone who's View All By shows some pretty cool stuff, including some very funny comments.

Why are you being so hostile? And don't you think it would be a good thing to have a scripturally-justified liberal Islam out there? Yeah, Al Qaeda, the Iranian Islamic Courts, and the Saudi religious police will all hate them, but they're good enemies to have.

#71 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:41 AM:

heresiarch @ 65

I know very little about the nuances of Moslem theology, or the history of its development, but I do know a little about the history of religious politics. It strikes me that the most interesting aspect of this story is that the Turkish government has funded it. There is a long tradition in many cultures of governments using religion as a tool; the foundation of English Protestantism had at least as much to do with wealth distribution as theology, for instance. I could see this a move by the Turkish ruling class to field a religious movement which is allied with them, rather than opposed to them, with the further hope that it will win away some of the moderate religionists from the role of tacit acceptance of some of the more fundamentalist groups in neighboring countries like Iran.

#72 ::: imran ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:09 AM:

greg... islam was never in the dark ages. get your history right first. it is christian europe which 'invented' the dark ages. Islam was at its peak and was instrumental in bringing the word out of the dark ages and towards technology and progress. if you would rather believe the media than actual historical facts then i pitty you. you might as well believe then that vampires exist too :P

#73 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:55 AM:

Bruce Cohen (StM) @ 71: "I could see this a move by the Turkish ruling class to field a religious movement which is allied with them, rather than opposed to them, with the further hope that it will win away some of the moderate religionists from the role of tacit acceptance of some of the more fundamentalist groups in neighboring countries like Iran."

I think that's a pretty good read on what it is, and a good explanation as to why I'm afraid it's going to go nowhere.

(Actually I think the neatest bit of the article has to do with the slightly tangential issue of the female imams that Turkey is training--that's a movement that I can see picking up some serious steam, and forcing other sects, even ones uninterested in the revised hadith, to allow women greater levels of religious education and authority. That's a pretty natural constituency for de-patriarchalizing* Islam.)

*Hey, sometimes you just need a new word, ya know?

#74 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 04:56 AM:

I note that my brother was recently in Tabriz, and attempted to use his rudimentary Farsi; the people there explained they were Azeris and spoke Turkish.

I understand, although can't back this up, that Azeri and Turkmen are very similar to Turkish. Or my point in other words: Muslims in Indonesia may or may not be interested; Muslims in Azerbaijan and Turkemistan are more likely to be effected due to closer linguistic and cultural links.

(On the other hand my brother's Turkish is fairly rudimentary too, and he has the uncanny talent of being able to make friends with people with which he shares no common language, so Azeri Turkish may not be as close to Turkish Turkish as I think)

*Hey, sometimes you just need a new word, ya know?

Scalzi declared Tuesday International Make Up a New Word Day; I think that, sadly, this has more utility than most of the examples in the comment thread of that post.

#75 ::: Nic ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:12 AM:

Disclaimer: IANAM (I am not a Muslim, I just study medieval Muslims, so I may be underinformed about modern belief and practice ;-))

Dave Bell @ 45:

I can't tell from the article exactly what it is they're doing - the implication seems to be that some hadiths are being rejected for their content (matn), not just for their transmitter chains (isnads). The isnad is where classical and medieval criticism used to focus.

Because yes, as several posters have pointed out, hadith-criticism (that is, trying to identify and reject spurious traditions) has a *long* history in Islamic scholarship. One thing that has irritated me about the media coverage of this is the implication that poor benighted Muslims have *only just realised* that people sometimes made stuff up about the Prophet to back up their arguments. Er, no.

What is interesting about this is a) that it's state-directed, and b) the criteria for selection, which seem to be based less on an attempt to get back to the 'authentic' words of the Prophet (whatever those may be), and more on picking 'acceptable' traditions.

As others have said, its likely impact is questionable, though. The Islamic world is much more culturally diverse than Europe at the time of the Reformation - and, of course, Islamic teaching and leadership is way more devolved. It's down to each scholar whether he (or she) accepts the changes, I would imagine. What I suspect will happen is the formation of a new school of Islamic law.

heresiarch @ 65:

As I understand it, the language of the Qur'an was pretty obscure even to Muslims of the second and third centuries after the Prophet (very poetic and allusive, lots of unusual verbs, not to mention the fact that some pronouncements are mutually contradictory), hence all the tafsir (exegesis). And, indeed, hence the hadith and sira. Early Muslims attempted to understand the Qur'an by fitting its verses to events within the Prophet's life (reasoning that, e.g., one verse might contradict another because it was revealed to the Prophet at a later, securer stage in his preaching career, as an abrogation of the previous ruling).

There's a whole bunch of related (heavily debated) issues here about which bits of the Prophet's life were actually memorialised by the first generations of his followers, and which bits had to be sort of filled in later when people became interested in other aspects.

Harold Feld @ 67:

What you said, yes. The reports also seem to keep missing the fact that hadith are primarily important for law, (mis)using terms like 'theology' instead.

#76 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:53 AM:

heresiarch #65: I'm just curious, Earl, if you would call, say, ancient Greece a 'rapeocracy?' What about modern Central America?

My opinion on your examples is not particularly relevant in the context of the topic at hand. I'd rather not derail the thread by expanding it in that direction. I don't much feel like playing Flamer Bingo today, especially not this close to 5am after no sleep: I wouldn't be bringing my "A" game.

#77 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:07 AM:

Neil Willcox @ 74: Uighur, the language spoken in Xinjiang, the westernmost province in China, is apparently similar enough to Turkish that Turkish speakers can understand them, and vice versa. Those nomads, they get around.

Earl Cooley III @ 76: "I don't much feel like playing Flamer Bingo today, especially not this close to 5am after no sleep: I wouldn't be bringing my "A" game."

Fair enough. I can understand your reluctance. =) I apologize if that comment of mine seemed a bit like a trap; I admit, in some ways it was one. Consider the matter amicably dropped.

#78 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:24 AM:

I wasn't trying to be trollish. It is hard for me to conceive of how this is going to make any difference in people's actual behaviour. "Secular, liberal" Islam seems to be basically a Good Thing, as such things go. It is like Unitarianism or Reconstructionist Jewdaism or any of those other religions that do no serious harm. Liberal Islam seems to basically ignore the primitive parts of the religion, just as most Christians and Jews pay no real attention to the primordial bits of Deuteronomy. And the people who think it is acceptable to execute a woman for witchcraft if her guy is infertile will presumably be unswayed by a modernization of the Hadith. So what changes? Nothing that I can see.

#79 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:43 AM:

Here is an article about a similar, if somewhat more potentially explosive effort. I haven't heard anything more about it in the last eight years or so (granted that I'm not Muslim, and might not).

That suggests to me that the current effort might go nowhere. Or maybe the two groups will link up, add the texts from the German archive, and really take off.

#80 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:01 AM:

I believe I shall be watching this closely. Given there's at least one politically unstable Islamic nation (with actual factual nuclear weapons[1]) within fallout range of Australia, it seems a wise idea to keep an eye on any ructions happening in the main base of Islam.

Of course, this sounds in many respects similar to the creation of the King James Bible back in the early days of Anglicanism - it may well wind up producing another text to be taken literally by those who benefit from being literal about the metaphysical. There's also the wonderful tendency of those who bend their religion to fit their prejudices, rather than vice versa, to continue doing so even if they are shown documentary evidence of their prejudices being in direct conflict with the teachings of their religion. Taking those into account, it's possible the efforts of the Turks may add up to nothing.

[1] Pakistan.

#81 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:04 PM:

It's possible that one effect of Imam-level trainign for women is that the message will more easily get to women. I'm not sure if that will get it across to the children--think of the Jesuits--but it could sidestep some of the barriers to a new way.

#82 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:48 PM:

imran 72: If Islam was never in the Dark Ages, then it can't very well come out of them, can it? More seriously, non-nuns wearing 7th-century clothes is likely to seem medieval to us ignorant Westerners.

Also, hanging teenagers for homosexuality, as is done in Iran, is barbaric (so, in my view, are all forms of execution for any cause, but that one in particular). Honor killings are barbaric. Executing women for witchcraft because their men are infertile is barbaric. In fact, all the behavior of the Saudi religious police is barbaric; if every single man of them dropped dead today, the world would be a noticeably better place.

To be fair, all the behavior of the Ku Klux Klan is barbaric as well, and their deaths would benefit the world. And it's barbaric to picket soldiers' funerals with signs that say "Thank God for IEDs." And it's barbaric to take children from their non-Christian parents so they can be raised Christian. All these are examples of barbarism committed by self-described Christians.

My point is twofold: 1) it's hard to notice your own culture's barbarism, and 2) when the barbarism of another culture resembles the barbarism of your own culture's past, it's tempting to call it by that past's name, even if that's incorrect. The sort of barbaric behavior that goes on in Islamic countries today resembles, in many respects, the barbarism that happened in Western Europe during the Middle Ages (sometimes called the Dark Ages by people who misread the Renaissance as a real return to learning, art, and science). Hence the mislabeling.

#83 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:56 PM:

The Iranian-American writer Reza Aslan has suggested that there is indeed a "Reformation" underway in contemporary Islam, but not necessarily the vague, hopeful fusion of the Protestant Reformation -- minus all the bad bits -- with the Enlightenment that people often mean by that term. His use of "reformation" very specifically invokes the same issue of religious interpretation and authority that drove much of the Protestant Reformation: who is allowed to interpret the Word of God? Traditionally, that power has been in the hands of the clergy: the Catholic Church in pre-Reformation Christendom, religious scholars trained in recognized Islamic schools in the Islamic world of the last several centuries.

What is changing, according to Aslan, is that individuals are starting to explore and assert a right to make their own interpretations of Islam and of the Qu'ran, even when it contradicts that of the traditional clergy.

He suggests this is being driven by the rise in literacy in Islamic countries, the increasing availability of translations of the Qu'ran into local languages, and the spread of the Internet. (He contrasts the situation of a traditional Muslim in the past, restricted to relying on his or her local imam for religious advice, with that of a modern, internet-aware Muslim, who can go looking online for collections of fatwas [religious opinions and rulings issued by the clergy] from all over the world.)

This has both positive and negative implications. In fact, his "poster child" example of this phenomenon is Osama bin Laden, who has assumed the air of a religous authority to the point of issuing fatwas even though he is not a properly trained scholar. Aslan notes that at a recent worldwide meeting of Islamic scholars there were a series of joint fatwas issued; these included not only re-statements of the idea that Islam does not condone the killing of innocents, but also a specific reminder that only people like them were entitled to issue fatwas....


(Brad DeLong made a similar observation back in October of 2001.)

#84 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:03 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @3:
The only official translation of the Quran is the Turkish one, so they may be able to pull it off, and they do have a precedent.

Fragano, that's a really puzzling statement. How can there be an "official" translation of the Qu'ran, which is supposed to be the literal word of God and thus inherently untranslatable? Who (other than, say, the Angel Gibreel) has the authority to make such a designation? I've never heard of such a thing.

#85 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:34 PM:

Greg Ioannou #78 -- You seem to be arguing that people are basically born into the beliefs they'll hold, and never change their minds. But ideas matter. Scriptural interpretations matter. The writings of Sayyid Qutb, Cyrus Scofield, Karl Marx, Thomas Paine, Paul of Tarsus, Martin Luther, and many others, these writings changed minds, and made change in the world.

Xopher #82 -- The problem with slapping the "Dark Ages" label on behavior like you describe is that such behavior wasn't limited to the Dark Ages. Consider the witch burnings, or the execution of William Tyndale for translating the Bible into English, or the torture and killing of the Presbyterian Covenanters. These didn't happen during Europe's Dark Ages, they happened during the Early Modern era.

#86 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 10:39 PM:

I've been following this story online, and there's more coverage out there now. I've summarized what I've turned up over on my blog: Link (too much to insert here, sorry). Turns out the Washington Post reported on this story back in 2006. And while the scholarly world does not seem to be interested, the religious and political worlds seem interested.

#87 ::: bill who's commented before and likes Colson Whitehead but would like his authorship to be reasonabl ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 01:23 PM:

'Meanwhile, in Germany, observant Muslim women who are public school teachers are not allowed to wear headscarves at school.'

As it happens, they can't in Turkey, either. Nor can judges, MPs or university teachers wear them at their place of work.

Secular state, you see. Despite being majority Muslim, and having a conservative and religious party (for which at least some on the left seem to have voted) in government.

I'm immensely grateful to Teresa for having posted this, since despite living in Turkey it's passed me by. But figuring out what's going on - let alone the likely consequences - is another matter.

Turkey is, I think, part of the reason why JBS Haldane was right when he said that the universe is not only stranger than we imagine but stranger than we *can* imagine.

#88 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2014, 12:33 AM:

Having now reread the thread, though (as you do), I wonder: what's the current state of the issue?

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