The Islamic State declared a New Caliphate: How This Affects Every Muslim in the World

To us, Westerners, it does not seem like a particularly big deal that ISIS/ISIL had pronounced the terrirories it now controls as a Capilhate and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (whatever  previous names he may have been know by) as a Caliph.

All right, let’s analyze  this, one bit at a time…

Al-Baghdadi simply means ‘from Baghdad’.

So, what does Abu Bakr mean?

It is obviously not the man’s birth name but rather a name he adopted in order to fit/further/support/explain the role he perceives himself (and others perceive him) to play.  Or, if you wish, the ‘mantle’ he had assumed.

Who was the original Abu Bakr?

The ‘original’ Abu Bakhr was the very first person outside of Muhammad’s family to become a Muslim – and he was the father of Muhammad’s child bride, Aisha.

To a person who is familiar with the history of early Islam, the above sentence is chock filled with meaning – so much so that a single little article may not do it justice…but, I will try!

The Early history of Islam is imbued with much meaning and allusions to it will convey many layers of meaning to those cognisant of it.  In order to even scratch the surface, I will need to ‘back up’ to the time of Muhammad himself.

Muhammad was born to a pre-eminent Meccan family.  His paternal grandfather was in control of the temple now know as the Kaaba.  It is now the most sacred site in Islam – the direction in which every Muslim prays.  Back then before Muhammad’s ministry, the Kaaba was a temple dedicated to many, many deities worshiped by the pagan Arabs – including the Moon God, Allah.

As the patriarch of the clan, Muhammad’s grandfather controlled access to the Kaaba temple – and much (if not all) of his income was generated from the fees paid by pilgrims who wished to visit the Kaaba.

Muhammad’s father was the son of this ‘gatekeeper’ of the Kaaba.

As a matter of fact, when Muhammad’s grandfather went to purchase Muhammad’s wife for his son, he saw another lovely woman in that family and purchased her for a wife for himself.  Therefore, Muhammed’s father married Muhamed’s mother in the same ceremony as his father married her kinswoman….and it is from this tradition that the tales of Muhammad’s unnaturally long gestation period come from…

Whatever the truth of the story, Muhammad was born long after his mother’s husband’s death – so long, in fact, that some people have questioned his parentage.  It seems that the worry about Muhmmed’s parentage was shared by Muhamed’s paternal grandfather….who refused to acknowledge Muhammed as being of his kin, prompting the teenage Muhammed’s excommunication from Mecca.  It was not until Muhammed’s paternal uncle officially adopted him that Muhammed was permitted to return to Mecca.

Once in Mecca, Muhammed caught the eye of his uncle’s employer, a wealthy widow named Khadija – who eventually married Muhammed.  

Prior to meeting Muhammed, Khadijah was in love with her cousin whom he believed to be the messenger from the one and only God.  Once she saw the young and handsome cattle-boy Muhammed, Khadija realized she was totally wrong and, afer she married Muhammad, she realized that it was really Muhammed who was the true prophet of the one and only God.

It took a few years of persuasion, but, eventually, the young Muhammed believed his wife (the first convert to Islam) that he was, indeed, special and chosen by God to be his Messenger!

Abu Bakhr, a wealthy merchant, was the first person outside the family to believe this and to embrace Muhammed as the prophet of the one and only God – thus becoming the first person outside the family to convert to Islam.  

When Muhammed told him that, in a dream, he was told that he is to marry Abu Bakhr’s six year-old daughter, Abu Bakhr first argued that she is too young, but, submitting to the will of God’s messenger, he eventually agreed.  

Unfortunately, at about the time of the betrothal, Abu Bakhr’s daughter, Aisha, fell ill and all her hair fell out.  So, Muhammed waited until she recovered and her hair grew back in before bedding her.

Aisha remained Muhammed’s favourite wife till his death.

Which is where the traditions ‘break path’, so to say.

BOTH traditions agree that Muhammed was ill, then felt better, lead Friday prayers, went to spent time with Aisha and then died.

According to Sunni Muslims, Muhammed had been poisoned by a Jewish woman who had served him a meal of poisoned mutton right after he had slaughtered her entire family and clan.  The Sunni believe she did this to test if he was just another King (who could be poisoned) or a true prophet (who could not – by the grace of God).  While he survived the immediate attack, the Sunnis believe Muhammed died as an after-effect of this poison.

The Shi’a Muslims, however, believe that being a true prophet of the one and only God, the poison given him by the Jewess as a test did not harm Muhammed at all. Rather, they believe that while Muhammed’s nephew and bodyguard was out of town, sent on a mission by Muhammed, Aisha killed him on the orders of her father, Abu Bakhr, so that he could assume the command of all the Muslims.

Indeed, there were many stories at about this time about faithful men in line to replace Muhammed as the leader of the Muslims being assassinated, one at a time, by the brothers of Aisha, so that her father could assume the reins of power and reign as the next Caliph.

Indeed, the very first war between the Muslims was about Abu Bakhr’s succession of Muhammed as Caliph…

Th Sunnis believe that Abu Bakhr was the rightful heir to Muhammed’s rule.

The Shi’as belive that Abu Bakhr was an usurper who had no right to power, but attempted to assassinate Muhammed’s rightful heirs in order to seize power for himself.

Whatever the truth may have been so many centuries ago is less relevant to today’s events than the traditions of these events, as told by both Shi’a and Sunni Muslims.

Today, considering the legends (and, perhaps, believing them to be true), adopting the name ‘Abu Bakr’ signals to Muslims that this person believes he is the rightful ruler of all of Islam (the Sunni bits, at least) who considers himself to he a true successor of Muhammed, with all that that implies.

Sure, it means death to all Shi’a Muslims as heretics – as well as all other non-orthodox Sunni followers of Islam.  According to this ‘Abu Bakhr tradition’ – anyone who did not acknowledge Abu Bakhr as the rightful successor of Muhammed and all followers of the forms of Islam that sprung from this must be exterminated as heretics, even ore dangerous than outright infidels…

Which means war in the middle east…

So – why is this important to the people outside the middle east?!?!?

It has to do with the very concept of ‘Caliph’.

A ‘Caliph’ is not just the ruler of a particular geographic area.

A ‘Caliph’ is the spiritual and political ruler of every Muslim in the world!

That is agreed upon by all the schools of Sharia – Islamic jurisprudence.

Thus, a Caliph erases the differences between different forms of Islam – regardless of Shi’a, Sunni, Ahmadi or anything else, once there is a proclaimed Caliph, all Muslims owe HIM and ONLY HIM their allegiance and obedience.

Regardless where on Earth they live, what local jurisdictions they are living under:  once there is a Caliph, Sharia dictates all Muslims must obey the Caliph before the laws of the land they happen to be living in.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may only control a small geographic area.  But, by having had himself declared a Caliph, he now commands the loyalty and obedience of all Sharia-adherent Muslims everywhere on this Earth.

THIS is why we, in the West, must draw a very pragmatic distinction between the Muslims who are immigrants to our lands, hoping to escape Sharia (and whom we must protect from their co-religionists) and the settlers/invaders who came here to try to enact Sharia law in our lands and thus make us conquered by Islam.

Make no mistake:  by having declared a Caliphate and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the new Caliph, militant Muslims have, in one move, turned Sharia-adherent Muslims in Western countries into enemy agents, whether they want to be or not!!!


AronRa: Reasonable Faith?!


More Mind Games

Yesterday, I had a fun post on how easily our perceptions can play mind games on us – looking at optical illusons.  Of course, optical illusions, at least of the ‘fun’ type, are just the tip of the iceberg!

The post showed, I hope, just how easy it is for our eyes to be tricked. 

Our brains are wonderful, comples structures.  They take the information from our eyes, and process it.  It is this processing of information which ‘tricks’ our mind.  Why?  Because our brains have developed some mightily useful ways of ‘figuring things out’ without telling us.  At least, without telling that conscious part of our thoughts we often think of as ‘us’. 

Yes, it is a form of subconscious ‘prejudice’ system – but it is precisely through this type of ‘pre-judgements’ that let humans  anticipate what is likely to happen next, so as to react in the best, most advantageour (to survival) way.  {Aside:  it is precisely because so many of our bad prejudices are also rooted this very deeply, among other survival tools, that we have a hard time recognizing our own ones… and why it is healthy for us to see other people’s ‘obvious’ prejudice openly, so we may learn to recognize our own bad/destructive/unreasonable prejucices and guard against acting on them.  But, that is for another day…}

When our brain gets some input, it matches this input to ‘past experiences’, compares patterns, looks for similarities.  It then interprets this new inputas best as it can – with respect to all the stored past experiences! And it does so quickly, without us even noticing it is doing it…

That is why we find it so hard to ‘wrap our brains’ around something completely new and outside of our experiences:  our brain has nothing to match it to, and would be just as happy ‘not noticing it’…

The immortal Douglas Adams was quite fascinated by this phenomenon.  And, as was his way, he used humour to get his point across… Please, indulge me (highly paraphrased):

The story went something like this:  A guy had a bet with some people about erecting an invisibility field on the mountain that blocked his view…  It was no easy thing, and in the end, the nay-sayers had lost, because even though the mountain could no longer be seen, there was now a suspicious new moon in low orbit, just about the size of that mountain…  Douglas Adams said that trying to generate an ‘invisibility field’ was silly, that is just so very troublesome.  It would have been much easier to simply paint the mountain pink during the nighttime and erect an S.E.P. field on it.

What is an S.E.P. field?  It simply means ‘Somebody Else’s Problem’ – anything that is ‘unusual’ or appears’ unexpected, and has this S.E.P. field on it – will be less than invisible!  People will look straight through it and not see it!  Their brain will just process it as ‘somebody else’s problem’ and refuse to acknowledge its existence…

Seems to me that this is one take on the whole ‘mind tricks’ phenomenon I am trying to get at.  Can’t relate to it – it’s not there. 

But, there are way more sinister uses of this ability we, people have, to interpret what we see according to familiar patterns.  This can be seriously abused by people with very particular – and not always honourable – aims.

Just like we can be tricked by a simple optical illusion, we can be tricked into seeing ‘things’ that never happened.  And once people ‘see things for themselves’, they accept them as true… and belieave them.

All our actions are based on what we perceive.  Not on facts – only on what we think are the acts. Not on truth, because we have no way of separating truth from our very distorted – and sometimes intentionally tricked – perceptions of the truth, on what we think the truth is.

A lie repeated often enough will eventually appear to us as the truth (it’s precisely this ‘previously encountered pattern’ matching thing in our subconsciousness that does this!). 

Conversly, a truth never heard of, will never be considered when one makes decisions.  After all, we can only decide on our best understanding of the truth…

Perhaps it is time we took a moment and re-evaluated just how easy it is for our brains to become victims of ‘mind games’…

Nature of ‘Faith’

In the last two posts, I looked at an alternate explanation of some statements in the Bible.  As the feedback showed, some Christians believe these statements literally, others figuratively.  And they are all happy holding onto their very different beliefs, even though all of them are inspired by the same passage in Genesis.   That is great!  

People ‘hold on’ to their ‘profound beliefs’, regardless of what others think of them or anything else – and I would not want it to be any other way.  This is called ‘faith’.  I have learned about this phenomenon.  I do not comprehend it, but I am ready to accept that some people are capable of it.

Yet, people often ‘hold on’ to ‘beliefs’ or ‘opinions’ on trivial or non-profound points which are demonstrably unsupportable.  I have tried, but I really don’t understand this aspect of human nature.  Personally, I have a hard time with this 100% one way, or 100% the other way mode of thought…..perhaps because I’m not ‘wired just right’…but I don’t think there is anything I’ve invested a 100%, non-conditional ‘belief’ in.

No, I’m not talking about everyday life things, like knowing I love my kids and so on….emotional investment is NOT what I am talking about.  Nor am I talking about the ‘ought to’ kind of belief, as in “I belive all humans ought to be treated as equals in the eyes of the law.”

I mean ‘factual’ stuff:  like physics, chemistry, history…that ‘stuff’…. and global warming, political implications, someone’s culpability in something, superstitions, trust in actual physical institutions …that ‘stuff’, too.  For example, when driving over a bridge, I am reasonably convinced that the probability that the bridge will collapse under me is so low as to be negligible – or I would not have driven onto it.  Yet, I do not believe that it will not collapse….there is a difference!

OK, I ‘know’ gravity is a ‘force’ – yet, if someone presented me with substantiated evidence that it wasn’t a force, but rather an aspect of, say, space, I would be sceptical, yet I’d want to know what they based their claim on.  They’d need solid evidence, but….I could be convinced by it.   Knowledge, conclusions, opinions – these are all subject to change as more information comes in.  I get that!  I understand that process, and have experienced it many times.  What I don’t get is ‘belief’ or ‘faith’.

Perhaps this is a characteristic of us Aspergers’ people:  I recall some friends cutting out a comic strip in which a teacher is handing back a math test.  She reads one of the answers out loud:  “provided both trains are travelling in straight line, with no hills or curves, provided there are no accidents that slow them down along the way, provided we neglect to account for the curvature of the Earth, provided the clocks in both stations are synchronized, and that the whole path is along same height above sea-level and so no time diallation occurs, the trains’ average speed is XXX. ”  She hands the test to a boy, and he wonders:  “How did she know this was my paper?  I forgot to put my name on it!”

For some reason, my friends thought this was hillarious and wanted to show it to me….something about the comic basing a character on me… 

It seems many people have as much problems with ‘my’ processing of information into conditional conclusions as I do with ‘faith’.    This truly shocked me….after all, does not EVERYONE state the obvious limits under which any conclusion is valid?  Why do many people percieve such qualifications as ‘waffling’?  It certainly is not so!  Would not presuming such things be an oversimplification, to the point of error? 

Yet ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ seemed more natural to many people than my ‘conditional conclusions’!

What is it that allows one person to ‘believe’ or ‘have faith’, while another cannot even commit to a math-problem answer without stating all the assumptions and limitations?  Which one is the ‘normal’ one, and which the ‘anomaly’?  Or is this like a spectrum, where there are no discrete breaks, just a continuum….with my ilk falling squarely at one extreme?

These questions have haunted me, ever since I can recall formulating their cognitive pre-cursors in nursery shool.  Even back then, I simply could not understand the motivations and expected goals behind other children’s games – and when I asked, I got blank stares or the old ‘index-finger-making-circular-motion-by-the-temple’ gestures in return.  I can understand both the process and the motivation/expected goals behind a calcualted risk, problem analysis, conditional conclusion, that sort of thing….  But, for the life of me, I cannot understand either the process nor the motivation/expected goals behind ‘belief’ and faith’ – both profound and mundane.

Is this just another aspect of my ‘faulty wiring’, one that makes me so very Aspergers?  Or, are ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ simply a label for ‘I don’t understand and am not worthy/willing to think about’?  Or is there something entirely different at play here?

Old Guys in the Bible: Part 2

This traces the search for the ‘nifty little formula’ used to ‘translate’ the high ages ascribed to Old Testament patriarchs into something more closely related to our current experience, as listed in Part 1. It is certainly not intended to challenge anyone’s personal faith. If you are likely to find such exploration offensive, please, do not read this post.

Ancient peoples were rather good at setting up calendars. The Ancient Egyptians were no exception: they observed the lunar cycle, but they also kept precise track of the solar cycle which affected the seasonal flooding of the Nile. Theirs was a lunisolar calendar. And Egypt is where the Israelites came from…

Surely enough, the early Hebrew calendar. And the lunations themselves were VERY important in Early Hebrew culture, to the point that people ‘bore witness’ of having seen the new crescent moon during religious ceremonies in the Temple.

Thus, the natural inclination would be to see if it would be reasonable that the time period cited as ‘years’ really signified ‘lunation’… now to follow that lead!

The Hebrew lunisolar calendar is specific. The solar year is divided into 12 lunar months. There are a few days left at the end of the year – but no partial months are allowed. Instead, every 2 or 3 years, an extra month was inserted into the year to ‘catch up’. It was sounding complicated, but there is a regular cycle: every 19 years, exactly 7 extra lunar months were added. Averaging this out, every year would have 12 months and 7/19ths ‘extras’. So, as a simplification, one solar year could be treated as having 12.37 lunar months.

I love it when complicated-looking things turn out to have easy-to-follow rules!

Armed with this new evidence, I took a peek at the ages the Old Testament patriarchs became fathers.

Even a cursory look made it clear that there could not be a simple misunderstanding between lunar and solar cycles in the chronology: it simply does not seem credible that someone could become a father at the age of 30 months. So, there had to be another factor at play.

Sometimes, it is curious how one holds many clues, but does not see they are even related….until some key connects them all. Then, things fall into place faster than one can ‘think them through’!

It was G’Kar, a character from Babylon 5, who handed me that key. He described how as a child, he had a different name: he only chose his ‘adult’ name at his coming-of-age ceremony!

Could it be THAT simple?

The Jewish coming-of-age ceremony for boys it the bar-mitzvah, when they reach the age of 13. But, this particular ceremony has only existed in its current form for a few hundred years. So, is it based on an older tradition, one that could bring us back into Biblical times?

Jesus Christ is said to have been baptized at the age of 30. Even though Jesus’ baptism may have been indicative of induction into priesthood, it is the basis of the modern practice of baptism which marks a person as a member of the Christian community Intriguing, but …

Back to history: there has been a long tradition of welcoming boys into the ranks of men at about the age of thirteen. The ancient middle-eastern traditions are no exception to this. The early Hebrew tradition seems to have been that young boys would undergo secular education, until about their thirteenth year. After this point, they would be allowed to join the ranks of men in the Temple and study religion.

There are references to it certainly being so in the times of Abraham (Abram): Abraham himself is said to have rejected idolatry and accepted God at the age of 13, and both his sons attended a school until they turned 13, after which one went to study Hebrew scriptures, the other ‘heathen ones’. There is also evidence that 13 may not have been too rigidly adhered to, that circumstances may have led to allowing younger boys to be accepted as men.

Furhtermore, there are references that Abraham (among others) refers to his coming-of-age ceremony as the time he started being called ‘something’ – and there are many conjectures as to the meaning of this ‘something’. I certainly am not a Talmudic or Biblical scholar, so I simply lack the knowledge to comprehend, much less assess these claims…(and I fully expect to be educated on this by incoming comments). 

But, what if the ‘something’ was a reference to his own name? As in, what if these comments about him starting to be called ‘xxx’ mean that he started to be called by his name: Abraham (Abram)?  Could it be evidence of a ‘naming’ ceremony which marked the beginning of his life as a man

What if the ages, as cited in Genesis, do not refer to the number of LUNAR cycles a person lived, but the number that he had lived as a man?

Presuming 13 to be the age that the patriarch became ‘men’ (even if some, like Nahor, may have been younger), and using 12.37 as the approximate number of lunations in a year, I arrived at my ‘nifty little function’:

Age(new) = [Age(old) / 12.37] + 13

This offset by 13 years just might make ‘sense’ of the listed ages.

I would like to stress that this is not meant to criticize or deny anyone’s personal faith, should they believe these ages to be true as given in the Bible. Personal faith is above such things as my little musings!

Also, I fully expect to hear back from those of you more knowledgeable on Biblical issues than I, with valid criticisms that will demonstrate the errors of my analysis. And that would be great! I’d rather be corrected than persist in error, any day.

Yet, looking at the ‘newly proposed ages’ for these ancient men, I cannot but wonder if, possibly, there might be some plausibility……?

Old Guys in the Bible – Part 1

If you are likely to be offended by non-traditional looks at the Old Testament’s patriarchs, please, do not read this post. It is not meant to be offensive or insulting, not even a little bit. Yet, it does contain a non-Christian’s look at the unusual longevity of the early biblical patriarchs and a somewhat clumsy – though sincere – attempt to make ‘sense’ of it in today’s terms.

It is really Sister Carlotta‘s fault. She’s the one who got me hooked on this.

In Orson Scott Card‘s ‘Ender’s Game’ series (don’t read them out of order or you’ll spoil it for yourself!!!), she raises the topic of Old Testament patriarchs during a conversation with another character. Together, they discuss why these men might have lived for such a long time. Until she planted the idea in my head, it never occurred to me that there might be a ‘reasonable’ (as in, non-miraculous) explanation of their longevity, and that it could be a puzzle to be solved!

I love puzzles, especially logic puzzles, and this one was most tantalizing. Many Christian websites insist these high ages given for the early patriarchs are symbolic only (as there were kings from that era who claim to have reigned for a comparable time period), and have no historical value. But, what if…?

That was years ago… but being obsessive-compulsive (and a slow thinker), I never quite let go of it. What if the ages recorded in the Bible say exactly what they are meant to say, and we just don’t understand what they mean? Given the zeitgeist of the era, I even had some suspicions… but could never quite make it all fit. Then, as luck would have it, the very spiritual G’Kar handed me the key!

Yes, I know, I have a problem ‘letting go’… but I could not help myself! This is sort of ‘the look’ of the list in the Old Testament (paraphrased):

Adam was 130 years when be ‘begot’ (I take this to mean his son was born, not conceived, or 9 more months would need to be added) Seth. Then he lived for another 800 years and died at the age of 930 years.

Once the ages and years were ‘run’ through my ‘nifty little function’, this would become:

Adam was 23 years old when Seth was born, then lived for another 65 years and died at the age of 88.

The list is sequential – i.e. the son is listed immediately under his father. For brevity, I will use this format:

  • Adam was 130 23 at his son’s birth, lived for 800 65 more years and died at the age of 930 88.

Here, the age given in Genesis is ‘crossed out’ and replaced by my guess. The ages are ’rounded off’, so addition may at times appear off by a bit… Without further ado, here is the list:

From Genesis 5:3 – 32

Name        Age at son’s birth     Lived on for         Died aged

  • Adam            130    23.5             800    64.7           930    88.2
  • Seth               105    21 .5            807    65.2           912    86.7
  • Enos                90    20.3             815    65.9           905    86.2
  • Cainan             70    18.7              840    67.9           910    86.6
  • Mahalaleel     65    18.3              830    67.1            895    85.4
  • Jared             162    26.1             800    64.7           962    90.8
  • Enoch              65    18.3             300    24.2           365    42.5
  • Methuselah   187   28.1              782    63.2           969    91.3
  • Lamech         182    27.7              595    48.1           777    75.8
  • Noah              500   53.4             139     11.2           639    64.6

From Genesis 11:10 – 32

  • Shem             100    21.1           500    40.4            600    61.5
  • Arpaxad        530    55.8          403    32.5             933    88.3
  • Salah                30    15.5           403   32.5             433    48.0
  • Eber               43o    47.8           430    34.8            860    82.6
  • Peleg                30    15.5           209    16.9             239    32.4
  • Reu                230    31.6           207    16.7              437    48.3
  • Serig                30    15.5           200    16.1              230    31.6
  • Nahor            920    87.4           119       9.6            1039    97.0
  • Terah               70    18.7           139      11.2             209    29.9
  • Abram (Abraham)…

Perhaps this has already been done and rejected by people who are scholars in this field. Or, there are better ‘versions’ of this solution, and I’m just not educated enough to know about them.

Yet, I feel strangely happy that I solved ‘the puzzle’ to my satisfaction: even the proverbial Methuselah is brought into the realm of what ‘my brain’ considers ‘reasonable’: he would have fathered La-mech when he was 27 and lived until he was 87 years old. Certainly, this is a remarkably high age for his time period, but not outside ‘potential human experience’.

These answers are not likely to be ‘accurate’, but…

What do you think?