Monday, March 7, 2011

Missing the Forest for the Trees

Following my recent post on defending Muhammad, an editor at Loonwatch correctly pointed out a mistake I made in transcribing an Arabic sentence. Instead of the correct, "I ask forgiveness from God," I had rendered it as "May God forgive me." I appreciate the editor's correction.

But I wonder if he missed something. The point of the story I was telling was that a Christian friend had shouted out loud, "God you suck!" and did not fear God's retribution because her relationship with him is based on love. A Muslim woman, I suggested, would never dare shout openly, "Allah you suck!" because her relationship with her Deity is fear-based. Throwing in the Arabic phrase as I did was simply for fun; it added nothing but a little spice to the story. And like a cougar pouncing on its prey, the editor leaped at my mistake and completely missed the point of the story.

It wasn't the first time. In two recent posts, available here and here, I noted that the Quran, believed my Muslims to be perfect in every way, contains at least one if not several apparent grammatical mistakes in Quran 5:56. I noted, as I describe in detail here, that Muhammad thought the structures carved from the rocks at Madayn Saleh were houses built by the Thamudians when in fact they were tombs built by the Nebateans. I suggested that the Quran's explanation of fetal development is unscientific, and asked Muslims how Muhammad's "marriage" to Safiya (discussed at length here in my review of a book by Omid Safi) can be considered anything other than rape.

Responses from Muslim readers were predictable. I was insulting the Prophet, said some, while others condemned my alleging the Quran contains mistakes. Others thought I was ignoring the issue of whether Translating-Jihad had mistranslated the Arabic word Nikah. But no-one even tried to answer my questions.

Speaking of Nikah, Translating-Jihad initially translated the word as meaning Sexual Intercourse, and Loonwatch replied that it means Marriage. Although I don't have a pony in this race, I would simply suggest it means both. Correct me if I'm wrong but in Muhammad's time there were only two kinds of sex, Nikah which was sex within marriage that was Halal (permitted), and Zina or sex outside of marriage that was Haram (prohibited).

When Translating-Jihad says that Nikah means sexual intercourse, and Loonwatch replies that it means marriage, they are both correct. The Aqd Al Nikah is the Marriage Contract - give one point to Loonwatch. On the other hand incest in Arabic is known as Al Nikah Al Maharim, or illegal sexual activity within the family - give one point to Translating-Jihad.

Of much more significance to me is that marriage in Islam equals the permission to have sex. When the Prophet allowed his warriors to "marry" female captives of war, he was allowing them to have sex with them. It granted sexual gratification to soldiers far from their homes, and had nothing to do with love, faithfulness, or mutual respect.

Marriage is viewed much differently in Christian and Muslim societies. Christians view marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman in which they both vow faithfulness to each other for the rest of their lives. Marriage in Islam is not a covenant but a contract, the Aqd Al Nikah, which allows a man to have sex with a woman. As far as the legal aspect is concerned, it's not that much different than purchasing a camel. Just as he can purchase a second or third camel without informing the first, he can yuzawwij alayha, or marry a second wife without even informing the first, much less receiving her permission. Just as a man beats a disobedient camel, the Quran commands him to beat a recalcitrant wife. And just as a man can sell his camel anytime he wants to purchase a better one, all he has to do is pronounce his wife Mutalaqa three times and she is divorced. Shaykhs have even recently issued Fatwas that this can take place on Facebook and as text messages on mobile phones.

Loonwatch's argument with Translating-Jihad also included whether sex with young girls (call it marriage if you will) was encouraged or discouraged within Islam. Again that seems to be missing the point. The problem is not that it is encouraged or discouraged, but simply that it is allowed. The reason it is allowed is that Muhammad did it.

The question to be asked is,  "Is sexual intercourse between a 50-year old man and a nine-year-old child ever justified, in any circumstance?" My answer is "No", Muhammad nonwithstanding. The second question is, "Is a man ever justified in beating his wife, in any circumstance?" My answer again is a firm "No", the Quran nonwithstanding.


Anonymous said...



Well done; thank you.

And Al Mutarjim has done great work in providing a translation of the whole fatwa, so that readers can judge it. This certainly doesn't look good for Dawood's and Danios' credibility, which I've already found to be highly suspect.

Nadir said...

I posted a response on loonwatch criticizing their approach in rebutting al-mutarjim's translation, essentially saying I thought their points were good but invalidated to a degree by their tone and black and white philosophy (either you agree wholeheartedly, or your a racist Nazi right-wing nutcase).  However, my comments weren't very well received, and Danios implied that because I didn't agree with his approach I should go hang out with a white supremacist, despite that I had complimented his language ability and expressed that I study Arabic because I love the language, history, culture, and people of the Middle East.  Another commenter (Nassir) even made fun of my Arabic name!  How's that for tolerance and multi-culturalism?

Recognizing a complete failure of Danios' ability to empathize with some of the frustrations we all face from time to time when studying a foreign language, it occurred to me that the reason Danios avoided my compliments and responded only with hostility to my responses might be that perhaps Danios doesn't speak Arabic at all.  When I asked Danios if he spoke Arabic, he didn't respond - but several of the commentators jumped in immediately suggesting that I am one of several other posters (as well as al-mutarjim himself) infiltrating loonwatch in an effort to divide them.

Since Danios never responded, I don't know if he speaks Arabic or not - but I have a feeling that, if he did, he would have responded.  So how would that be for fraudulent and misleading, if the primary author of the article (Dawood being the "guest" contributor) criticizing al-mutarjim's transliteration doesn't even speak the language in question?

Later Dawood (who seemed to be the only person who responded with anything other than outright hostility toward me for my opinion) posted a comment on loonwatch about Observant Observer's "mistake" in transliterating "astaghfir" and I pointed out that he was doing exactly what observant observer said loonwatch would do - point out errors in an effort to discredit the author while suspiciously avoiding the authors points and questions.  Dawood at this point joined the chorus, saying that even if he addressed these questions I'd only come back with something in return, as he had seen me do on that and other threads (except that was the only thread I had ever commented on).  Having nothing more to talk about, I left the conversation.

So according to loonwatch, if you aren't one of the people who fall near lockstep in line with what they think and how they present it, you are a "loon".  Way to make friends and influence people, loonwatch!

Also, I'm not sure Danios is a Muslim.  He posted a comparison between Moses and Muhammad, and in the caption was a picture of Moses.  I'm not an Islamic scholar, but I'm pretty certain that isn't halal.  He later changed it after receiving complaints from readers.  Congratulations Danios, your cute little stunt might have cost you your life in a predominantly Muslim country.

So, he's probably not a Muslim and possibly doesn't speak Arabic, and he's calling al-mutarjim a misleading fraud?

Peter Penguin said...

> Christians view marriage as a covenant ...

Or, in some quarters: a *sacrament*.

(Just a thought, as we enter Lent ...)

Anonymous said...



Islam, A concise introduction Dennis Roberts
p. 143 “The Arabic word for marriage and sexual intercourse is the same: nikah.”

Muslim women in changing perspective
Talat Ara Ashrafi
p. 51
“According to Muslim Law, ‘Nikah’ is a contract of union between two strangers of opposite sexes which legalizes their sexual intercourse and mutual co-existence and imposes certain duties on and confers certain rights upon the two partners.”

Sharia – The Islamic Law
Corinna Standke
“In Islam, marriage is a civil contract which legalizes sexual intercourse and pregnancy.”

Sexual ethics and Islam: feminist reflections on the Qur’an, hadith, and jurisprudence
Kecia Ali
“Nikah, the term used by jurists for the marriage contract, literally refers to sexual intercourse, so closely is marriage linked to sex.”

The Nigerian Legal System: Public Law
By Charles Mwalimu

p. 542 “Marriage under Islamic law in Nigeria is known by its Arabic name, Nikah or joining together, the same meaning as sexual intercourse…”

p. 673 “Under the Maliki code applicable in Nigeria the word Nikah signifies “the contract of marriage for the legislation of sexual intercourse…”

Muslim women in law and society: annotated translation of al-Tahir al Haddad
al-Ṭāhir Ḥaddād, Ronak Husni, Daniel L. Newman
p. 182
2 Marriage in Islam
235 “The Arabic word for marriage is zawaj or nikah, the latter being derived from the verb nakaha (‘to have sexual intercourse’): cf. Qur. II: 230. Nikah is also used to denote the marriage contract (cf. ‘aqd, ‘aqd qiran).”

The Muslim family : a study of women's rights in Islam
Tove Stang Dahl
p. 52 “The legitimate form of sexuality is therefore an outcome of marriage - nikah (the concept nikah means both marriage and sexual intercourse).”

Anonymous said...


Sexuality in Islam
Abdelwahab Bouhdiba, Alan Sheridan
"Nikah and unconsummated marriage are mutually exclusive. Abstinence of a hundred and twenty days is a maximum not to be exceeded in any circumstances. Sexual intercourse is one of the pillars of nikah."

Women and international human rights law: Volume 3
Kelly Dawn Askin, Dorean M. Koenig
“In the medieval treatises, marriage was known as nikah, referring to licit sexual intercourse, and the marriage contract was understood as an agreement permitting the husband sexual access to the wife in return for his commitment to pay ...”

Studies in Modern Islamic Law and Jurisprudence
Oussama Arabi

p. 150
“In the Muslim normative universe, love and sexual emotions between the sexes ought to acquire a lawful form, a fact which is echoed in Islamic law where legal sexual intercourse (nikah) could only be in the form of a contract (‘aqd): “Legal union according to the Law is the contract of marriage (al-nikah fi’l shar’ ‘aqd al-tizwij). Sexual intercourse (wat’), without a contract, is illegal intercourse (safah, laysa bi-nikah).”

Fundamentals of Ijtehad
Muhammad Taqi Amini
"[...] Imam Abu Hanipha [...] argues that the verse uses the word Nikah and it literally means the ‘union’ therefore it means ‘sexual intercourse’ [...]"

Anonymous said...

Yes ...Danios ..Danios.

I looked in on Loonwatch once to see what it was all about. Perhaps I followed a link back from somewhere else who had been hammered by Danios: It is a few years ago, I cannot remember the details, nor the subject. Please trust my word on this, lol.

But I looked at what Danios had written, and I looked at what he had responded to and set out to prove or refute. And there was no connection! Untrue premises are clearly no guarentee for correct conclusions. It was a very strange experience. As was the number of those who professed to hate hatred ("hatred" as in anything remotely critical of Islam or LW). It settled Loonwatch for me.

Anonymous said...


SATV says Loonwatch and Al Mutarjim are both correct, that nikah can mean marriage or sexual intercourse.

True, but...

Loonwatch was wrong in their main assertion, which was that nikah didn't mean sexual intercourse. In contrast, Al Mutarjim of course does accept the fact that nikah means marriage too.

Loonwatch = 0
Al Mutarjim = 1

Loonwatch was wrong in their assertion that the mufti outright forbade sexual intercourse, or any kind of sexual contact, with prepubescent girls. Their own translation (and Mutarjim's) show(s) that the mufti only advised (or "admonished") against it; he did not declare it to be haram, much less recommend punishments for those men who do it.

Loonwatch = 0
Al Mutarjim = 1

Loonwatch to their credit did initially raise a valid point, namely, that Al Mutarjim should have included the mufti's concluding personal opinion admonishing against sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls. However, Loonwatch no longer has an advantage on this point, because Al Mutarjim has addressed it, and has indeed provided a translation of the entire fatwa. Al Mutarjim's translation shows that the mufti's comments were much more ambivalent than Loonwatch had suggested. Loonwatch clearly excluded material that would have conveyed a very different impression to their readers. In other words, Loonwatch has committed sins of omission far more serious than any they had alleged against Al Mutarjim

Loonwatch = 0
Al Mutarjim = 1

Anonymous said...


When the issue of excluded material was raised by Loonwatch, with their extremely critical remarks and harsh allegations about the exclusion, uses of ellipsis "[...]", etc., Loonwatch should have realized that to address this issue properly for their readers, one thing they'd have to do is provide a translation of the whole fatwa (and perhaps include it in an appendix). However, they did not provide one; they only provided a few parts, carefully cut to give the impression of unmitigated support for their allegations. In contrast, Al Mutarjim has provided a complete translation of the whole fatwa.

Loonwatch = 0
Al Mutarjim = 1

Loonwatch did not bother to explain, or perhaps wished to avoid, the key issue of what the mufti meant in light of the meaning and implications of the "verse" (65:4) he cited in his fatwa while saying (roughly) "...we can take from this verse the permissibility of nikah with prepubescent girls". In addition, Loonwatch did not address the relevance (to the translation) of the mufti citing, as acceptable, Muhammad having intercourse with Aisha when she was 9 years of age. In contrast, Al Mutarjim has taken the verse 65:4, and Muhammad's conduct, into account in explaining what the mufti probably meant, and thus providing the justification for the translation decision that he made.

Loonwatch = 0
Al Mutarjim = 1

Anonymous said...


What? No word from Dawood and Danios? Shouldn't they be trying to refute Al Mutarim's explanation and full translation of the fatwa?

It was also interesting that Dawood posted some quotes from his sources here, including some which mentioned nikah meaning sexual intercourse (and none which denied that meaning), but he didn't present those quotes at Loonwatch. I wonder why that is? Is he afraid that Loonwatch readers might get "the wrong idea," or might get "confused" by such a presentation? I also note that the descriptions of his sources that he gave over there (again, without quoting them over there) were much more sweeping and dismissive than the ones he gave here.

I also note that he failed to acknowledge his obvious errors, a couple of which I pointed out in the Loonwatch and defending Muhammad thread.

Dawood's and Danios' article against Al Mutarjim on the word "nikah" was little more than a crude confidence job. They came out very confident, declaring themselves correct and Al Mutarjim wrong, without presenting a shred of objective evidence to support any of their allegations. The few posters who seem to know a bit of Arabic went along with the ruse, while most of the rest just unthinkingly accepted the line they were fed.

Anonymous said...

"One should never strike a woman; not even with a flower." (Hindu, Janet, i.8)
I came across this reading C. S. Lewis last night. Now Hindus may not always follow this prescription, but at least it exists. I'm not finding these sentiments in Islam; instead there are numerous justifications for brutality. Your overall point is well taken.
Getting caught up in grammatical distractions really does miss the fundamental philosophical point of the narrative being analyzed.

Susanne said...

Interesting post! The only thing that struck me as wrong was the dowry part. In Islam the money is actually given to the woman. Or it's supposed to be.

Joe said...

isn't the more correct arabic word for marriage zawag?

Anonymous said...


Not being an Arabic speaker myself, I can't tell you, in general, if zawaj (see below)
would be better or more frequent than nikah as a word for marriage, but certainly both terms are used for marriage. And nikah can mean either, or both, marriage and sexual intercourse.

However, in the context of the translation by Al Mutarjim, where the mufti wrote "from this verse [65:4] we can take...", the implications of the verse indicate that the mufti, in using the word nikah, may be referring to both sexual intercourse and marriage. (The verse 65:4 implies that a prepubescent girl has been already married and that sexual intercourse of some sort has already taken place in that marriage). He is almost definitely not referring to a marriage without sexual intercourse, or sexual intercourse without marriage.

p. 60 [...] “In Muslim countries where Arabic language and culture predominate, marriage is referred to as zawaj, literally, “pairing.””
From: Voices of Islam: Voices of life : family, home, and society
By Vincent J. Cornell. From Chapter 3, Marriage in Islam, by Nargis Virani

Quotable Quotes: said...

Susanne, you are correct, the dowry is to be given to the bride and not to her parents. Actually, I just realized this is specified in Quran 4:4. Thanks for your correction, and I'll remove that sentence from my post.

Quotable Quotes: said...

Joe, there are several common words in Arabic that mean marriage - just as in English we talk about marriage, tying the knot, performing the nuptials, etc.

The word jawaz has the meaning of a couple. Another common word is ars, with the bride and the groom being the related words of the arous and the areesah. The word nikah is more the legal term.

Hesperado said...

As the article implies rather indirectly, nikah is obviously the redefinition of rape into permissible sex. One would then accord Muslims the minimal intelligence to recognize that they need to add some kind of structure to this legitimized rape situation in order to organize the ongoing procreation and pedagogy of future warriors in the context of the relative coherence of a warrior society whose mission is a never-ending fanatical lust for Lebensraum.

That's the sum of Islamic romantic love & marriage: Fucking and Baby Factories for the Reproduction of Warriors against the world. (Exceptions to this rule which one may anecdotally hear of, or experience first hand during jaunts in the Middle East where one may have been the honored guest of some lovely household full of hospitable Muslims, are just that.)