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Home | Social Philosophy and Theory | Laws and Societal Behaviors | Social Justice | "Hadith" and "Bible" | Allegory, Symbolism, and "Miracles" | Philosophy | Science | The "5 Pillars"

by Ayman

26:224. And the poets are followed by the deceived/unreasonable.

INTRODUCTION

43:3. We have made it as an Arabic reading, so that perhaps you will be logical.

12:2. We have sent it down as an Arabic reading, so that perhaps you will be logical.

How is it that the great reading being in Arabic contributes to logical and reasonable as opposed to unreasonable understanding?

What is special about a text being in Arabic or non-Arabic? Or more precisely, at the time that the great reading was descended, what was special about a text being in Arabic or non-Arabic?

WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT ARABIC?

A possible answer may be found in the sign in 16:103.

16:103. And indeed We know that they say: "It is but a human that is teaching him." The language of the one they falsely attribute to is non-Arabic, while this is a clarifying Arabic language.

The sign in verse 16:103 refutes the statement "It is but a human that is teaching him" by saying that the language of such human religious teachings is non-Arabic, while the great reading is in Arabic. The sign in 16:103 indicates that at the time the great reading was revealed there was another non-Arabic language that was used for "religious" teachings and that Arabic was not used for "religious" matters.

Looking back at archeological evidence from the period before the great reading was descended, we see a very interesting phenomenon. We see plenty of inscriptions in Arabic. However, those inscriptions are mostly informal writings that do not talk about formal religious or political affairs. They are like graffiti written by average people. They talk about average people's issues such as hunting, finding water, tribes and families, the caring for livestock, love, grief, and other normal everyday aspects of desert life.

On the other hand, in the same areas of Arabia where those informal Arabic graffiti are found, thousands of Nabataean inscriptions can be found. Nabataean is a close cousin of Aramaic and comes from the same branch of Western Semitic languages. Arabic, on the other hand, comes from the Southern Semitic branch. All the Nabataean inscriptions are very formal and talk exclusively about religious and royal affairs and there are no Nabataean inscriptions talking about the average Nabataean citizen life. Hence, the life of the average Nabataean citizen has remained a mystery.

Until recently, archeologists thought that there were two unrelated people using two different languages that lived in that area, the Nabataeans and the Arab nomads. An inscription found near the Negev region changed all that. The inscription talks about a Nabataean king and dedicates the setting up of a statue to him in the Nabataean language. Added to the Nabataean text there is an explanation in Arabic of why the people made the dedication. Here is a translation of the Arabic portion:

"For (king) Obodas works without rewards or favor, and when death tried to claim us, when a wound of ours festered, he did not let us perish."

When the subject of the inscription changed from formal religious/royal matters to the common people's explanation of why they loved their king, so did the language. It shifted from Nabataean to Arabic. The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that there weren't two people living in the same region who were using two different languages. They were one people all along who simply used two languages for different purposes. They used Arabic as an informal language for common everyday matters and Nabataean as a language for religious and formal affairs. Most commoners would not have understood the religious language of the elite and this helped the religious and political elite to monopolize power.

More importantly, this archeological evidence is confirmed by the sign in 16:103 that clearly points out to Arabic not being the language of religious teachings. So here we have agreement between the evidence from the great reading and archeological evidence.

At the time of the prophet, if a Jew wanted to learn religious matters, they would be taught in Hebrew, which like Nabataean, is also a Western Semitic language. If a Christian wanted to learn religious matters, they would be taught in Aramaic or Greek. If a pagan wanted to learn about his Nabataean idols, he would be taught in Nabataean Aramaic.

Throughout history, one of the ways that the religious clergy maintained control over the common people has been to erect a language barrier. For example, until the 14th century, the language of religion in England was Latin. Change was brought about by the death of over half of the Latin-speaking clergy during the plague of 1348-54 because they lived in close quarters at monasteries. English speaking commoners replaced these clergy and English services became widespread. Shortly thereafter, English translations of the Bible started to appear and not long afterwards, reformers, such as Protestants, began to challenge the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The event of the plague had a significant impact on the English language and how it is used. English words and expressions that had no religious connotation started to take a strong religious meaning. For example, expressions such as "your worship", which used to simply be a respectful way to address someone, might now denote a religious ritual.

The sign in 16:103 has significant implications on how we can properly understand the great reading and on demolishing the "after-the-fact" dogmatic religious corruptions and the myths surrounding the story of the prophet. In this article an attempt will be made to construct a coherent theory on "pre-quranic" Arabia. The theory will be validated based on evidence from the great reading and archeological evidence. Also, unlike all existing theories we will avoid relying on hearsay or using it to fill in the blanks.

JAHILIYA SOCIETY

Based on 16:103, we found out that Arabic was not a language of religion but was a language of the common people. This would explain how the term "ummi" which comes from "ummat"/people came to mean "illiterate". This would also explain verses such as 62:2 and 3:75 where the meaning of "illiterate" doesn't make any sense because certainly not all the people of the prophet were illiterate and neither was he. With the interpretation of 16:103 and as confirmed by the archeological evidence, the following meanings of "ummi" converge:

1. Is illiterate in the religious language of the elite, which is the language of the previous books.

2. Is from the common people ("ummat").

It can then be seen that the great reading addresses two audiences:

3:20. So if they debate with you say: "I submitted my direction to The God and so did those who followed me" and say to those who were given the book and the "ummiyin"/common people who don't know the religious language of the elite: "Did you submit?" So if they submit then they are guided and if they turn away, then only delivery of the message is upon you and The God is seer of the servants.

According to the traditionally accepted theory, "those who were given the book" refers to Christians and the descendants of Israel while "al-ummiyin" refers to the illiterate pagans. There are many problems with the traditional theory as can be seen from verses such as 2:78, which describes the descendants of Israel:

2:78. And from them are "ummiyin"/common people who don't know the religious language of the elite who don't know the book except recitation without knowing the meaning and they are but assuming.

Verse 2:78 talks about the descendants of Israel. So here we have the term "umiyun" encompassing the descendants of Israel who were either Jews or Christians. This again confirms that "ummi" versus "those given the book" is not a religious or literate versus illiterate division but is a social division of religious elite versus common people. Interestingly, according to Lisan Al-Arab, "not knowing the book except "amany"" means "except recitation". Lisan Al-Arab further explains that Arabs used the expression "someone who "yatamana"" to mean "when someone said what he doesn't know".

 منهم أُمِّيُّونَ لا يَعْلَمُون الكتاب إِلا أَمانيَّ قال أَبو إِسحق : معناه الكتاب إِلا تِلاوة نُسِب إِلى أَنْ القائل إِذا قال ما لا يعلمه فكأَنه إِنما يَتَمَنَّاه ، وهذا مستَعمل في كلام الناس

According to 2:78, much like the many sectarians today who don't know Arabic and instead of using a translation recite the Arabic reading behind their religious elite like a parrot without understanding what they are saying, Jewish and Christian Arabs recited their books in a foreign language without understanding what it means. Those Arabs probably recited the book in a foreign language and not in their own language because they thought that this foreign language was somehow sacred. Because they didn't understand the religious texts, in all likelihood they blindly followed the religious elite.

Thus "pre-quranic" Arabia was divided into two major groups. The first group is the religious/political elite of "those who were given the book" and the second group is the common people/"al-ummiyin". According to 59:2, "ahl al kitab" lived in fortified castles so this further confirms that they were not average people but political/religious elite. The advent of the great reading eliminated the differences between those two groups and empowered the common people by bridging the language barrier.

43:31. And they said: "if only this reading had been descended on a great man from the two towns."

Verse 43:31 is inconsistent with the sectarian stories about the prophet prior to receiving the message where he is portrayed as someone who is held in high regards and judges between people in matters such as the placement of the three broken black stone idols that are tied together with a strap (which the Sunnis mistakenly call "the Black Stone"). This again confirms that the prophet was not from a prestigious family.

Now we can understand why despite the fierce resistance to the message by the religious elite, it spread so quickly. It was in the language of the common people that everybody could understand. The fact that the great reading was not only critical of the established religious dogma but was also in the language of the common people, must have added insult to injury as far as the religious and political elite were concerned. This is because the elite religious and political establishment would have looked down at Arabic as a "common people" language and not a "scholarly" one.

JIHILIYA POETRY

According to traditions, alleged Jahiliya Arabic poets were respected and their poems were highly sought after. Traditions contend that powerful political rulers, such as the Ghassanid kings, invited the alleged pagan Arabic poets to court. The Ghassanid courts, such as those of King Nu'man, were supposed to be the venues for the recitation of panegyrics, which are considered in the front rank of Arabic Jahiliya poetry. However, as we saw earlier, the religious and political elite would have looked down on Arabic as a common people language and not a literary and scholarly one. So it is very unlikely that they courted such alleged Arab poets.

If one tries to reconstruct the true history without considering the traditional hearsay reports, what is noticeable from physical archeological evidence is that, despite being Arabs, the Ghassanids did not use Arabic in their religious and formal political communications. For example, here is what an archeologist specializing in Byzantine and Arab 6th century archeology recently said about an important Ghassanid church excavation and the religious inscriptions found [I. Shahid, The Sixth-Century Church Complex At Nitl, Jordan. The Ghassanid Dimension]:

"Remarkable is the fact that the inscriptions are not in Arabic but in Greek, in spite of the strong Arab sense of identity, that the Ghassanids possessed"

Interestingly, some Arabic inscriptions were found on recycled rocks reused to build a church at Umm Al-Rasas in Northern Arabia. The rocks are inscribed in Arabic graffiti with Arab people names. This suggests that the church was built in an area where Arabs lived and that it was catering to Arab parishioners. Despite the parishioners being Arab, as we saw earlier the religious inscriptions were foreign.

So here we see a clear contradiction noticed by archeologists. How come the religious inscriptions are not in Arabic despite the very strong Arabic identity of the Ghassanids? Also, if the Ghassanids held Arabic poetry in such high regard, then how come amongst the multitude of Arabic inscriptions there are no inscriptions of any alleged Jahiliya Arabic poem or even of a single verse of one?

Again, the sign in 16:103 neatly resolves this contradiction. Arabic was simply not a language of religious or literary teaching. That is why the traditionalists cannot produce even one "pre-quranic" manuscript or one inscription of even one verse of one alleged Jahiliya poem. It is not as if Arabs didn't write as some traditionalists claim. There are thousands of pre-quranic Arabic inscriptions talking about much less important things than this alleged Jahiliya poetry and yet there is absolutely zero "pre-quranic" evidence of this all important Jahiliya poetry. All the Arabic inscriptions are informal in nature.

Poets exist in all cultures so there were "pre-quranic" Arabic poets. Even primitive cultures with no advanced literature have poets because they have songs. Singing is the basic form of poetry. However, singing folk songs and "Mary had a little lamb" is different to the supposed Jahiliya poems allegedly uttered by and for the kings of the Arabs and which gave prestige to whoever has the ability to mechanically utter verses that rhyme.

The most prominent alleged "pre-quranic" poet is Imru' Al-Qays. The following is an example of his poetry:

The mere fact that a modern Arabic reader is able to read the above poem without any difficulty raises suspicion about its authenticity. Many of the alleged poets were supposedly from Southern Arab tribes. For example, Imru' Al-Qays was alleged to be from the Southern Arab tribe of Kinda and thus would have spoken and produced poems in an Old Southern Arabic (OSA) dialect such as Sabaic that would have been difficult to understand and not the familiar Northern Arabic dialect of the great reading that we see above.

Anyone who has carefully studied alleged Jahiliya poetry knows that Jahiliya poems, including the above, are amongst the least artful works of literature. All one has to do to utter Jahiliya poetry is to follow the rhyme. That is why you can easily take a Jahiliya poem and insert verses in between or rearrange the order of the verses without losing any of the non-existent author personality.

Even more shocking is that the passages marked with a red box occur almost word for word in the great reading (54:1, 54:29, 54:31, 54:46, 93:1-2, 21:96, 37:61) and this has given ammunition to detractors of the great reading. Detractors of the great reading claim that the prophet copied from Imru' Al-Qays. They refer to the above alleged Jahilya poem verses and to dubious traditions such as the following:

"Fatima (the daughter of the prophet) was repeating a verse and was overheard by the daughter of Imru' Al-Qays, who said: 'O that's what your father has taken from one of my father's poems, and calls it something that has come down to him out of heaven.'"

Despite this, traditionalists have not tried to refute that Imru' Al-Qays said such poems and have continued to trust the authenticity of alleged Jahiliya poems.

It is time for people to stop trusting alleged Jahiliya poems because there is categorical physical archeological evidence that the most prominent Jahiliya poet, Imru' Al-Qays is a fictional character based on a much earlier real Arab king.

This evidence is provided by a famous inscription called the Namara inscription. Here is a translation of the Namara inscription:

"This is the funerary monument of Imru al-Qays, son of ‘Amr, king of the Arabs; and[?] his title of honor was Master of Asad and Madhhij. And he subdued the Asad-s, and they were overwhelmed together with their kings, and he put to flight Ma(dh)hij thereafter, and came driving them into the gates of Najran, the city of Shammar, and he subdued Ma‘add, and he dealt gently with the nobles of the tribes, and appointed them viceroys, and they became phylarchs for the Romans. And no king has equaled his achievements. Thereafter he died in the year 223 on the 7th day of Kaslul. Oh the good fortune of those who were his friends."

[Source: Bellamy, J. (1985). "A New Reading of the Namarah Inscription," Journal of the American Oriental Society 105.1, 34.]

The inscription talks about a powerful king named Imru' al-Qays who had great achievements and must have been liked by his people.

The Nabatean year 223 corresponds to the year 328AD. The alleged Jahiliya poet Imru' al Qays, is reported to have died over 200 years later in the year 540AD.

We seemingly have two personalities by the same exact name: Imru' al Qays, and both are famous figures. This is how traditionalists explained away the vast discrepancy in the dates.

However, the traditionalist explanation is not possible because the astonishing similarities between the alleged poet and the person described by the inscription do not stop there. The 328 AD real Imru' al Qays (since we have archeological evidence to back up his existence) shares other striking similarities with the fictional 540 AD Imru' al Qays, the alleged pre-quranic Arabic poet.

For instance, both are royals, the 328AD Imru' al-Qays is called the "king of the Arabs" in the inscription and traditionalists allege that the other Imru' al-Qays was the son of the last king of Kinda, an ancient Arabian tribe. When his father was murdered, he too became king.

The 328AD Imru' al-Qays fought a tribe called Asad. The other Imru' al-Qays was banished by his father king because of his passionate poetry then his tribe went to war with a rival tribe called: Bani Asad! Who murdered his father!

Both Imru' al Qays 1 and 2 defeated their Asad enemies.

Both the 328AD Imru' al Qays and the 540AD Imru' al Qays tried to unite the tribes of Arabia.

Both the 328AD Imru' al Qays and the 540AD Imru' al Qays made alliances with the Romans to defeat their tribe's enemies.

We know that the 328AD Imru' al Qays existed because of the physical archeological evidence of the Namara inscription. We only know about the 540AD Imru' al Qays through stories and poems that were reported in the 8th-9th century AD.

Those striking similarities cannot be a coincidence but is exactly what one would expect from the storytellers as the real story of the real Imru' Al-Qays is turned across generations into the legend of Imru' Al-Qays and sprinkled with poetry and embellished to make it more entertaining. This completely demolishes the historicity of the 540AD Imru' Al-Qays and the entire traditional account of the Jahilya period and its poetry.

The fictitious Imru' al Qays of 540AD is regarded as the inventor of the "qasida" or classical ode. His poems are considered to be the most prominent, famous, and reliable. He is also considered the greatest poet of the Mu'allaqat, the poems that are worthy of hanging on the alleged Kaaba. Hence, if his historicity turns out to be problematic, this would have far reaching consequences for the historicity of all Jahiliya poetry and even the alleged proper name Kaaba, since Jahiliya poetry is the only supposed "pre-quranic" source for it.

Traditionalists have countered the doubts in the authenticity of Jahiliya poetry by arguing that the oral transmission of Jahiliya poetry was like the transmission of the great reading and hence both are preserved in the same way.

Fortunately, those traditionalist arguments are not grounded in reality. Unlike alleged Jahiliya poetry where there is a complete absence of manuscripts and inscriptions, there are many early manuscripts of the great reading that can be dated to the first century of the new era. Some of those manuscripts even show faded text where the same words have been re-written over. Thus, the original text of the great reading can be dated to an even earlier period. Given that there is only a slim probability of survival of such manuscripts, the fact that we have so many indicates that they came from a very large population. Moreover, there are many rock inscriptions of parts of the great reading that are dated to the first century of the new era. More importantly, the great reading itself tells us that it is a "kitab". The word "kitab" means a "written document".

Traditionalists have also contended that a vast conspiracy was needed for the fabrication of Jahiliya poetry on such a scale. However, in reality there is no need for a conspiracy. The natural law of supply and demand negates the need for a conspiracy.

Hollywood produces movies because there is demand for them not because of any sinister conspiracy. A few hundred years from now some na´ve folks that lack common sense may watch such movies and think that they are home movies depicting the lives of actual people.

Poetry was told by storytellers for the purpose of entertainment. Hence, unlike later poets, all alleged Jahiliya poets have very interesting and amazing life stories. The poems are weaved into the stories and advance the plot line in such a way so that a poem is always uttered at the opportune moment. Hence, like in a Bollywood movie where the hero and a chorus of singers and dancers is always ready at the right moment in the story to spontaneously delight the audience with a song, alleged Jahiliya poets entertain us with their poems in the exact perfect time in their melodramatic stories. Those are all classical features of fiction and legends and not actual historic accounts.

It is amazing that some people still believe that poets such as Imru' Al-Qays (the Hamlet of Arabia), Antara (the Achilles of Arabia), and Qays Ibn Al-Mulawah and Layla (the Romeo and Juliet of Arabia) really existed and they are not a figment of the imagination of Umayyad and Abbasid era storytellers. This is no different than believing that Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet really existed and are not the figment of the imagination of Shakespeare. Traditionalists even accept as Jahiliya poetry poems alleged to be from the time of Ibrahim (a different millennia) or uttered by Adam in the obituary of his son, all said in easy to understand Arabic I might add! Of course, anyone with common sense should doubt that people at the time of Ibrahim even heard of this Arabic, let alone composed poetry in it.

If traditionalists want to compare the supposed preservation of so-called Jahiliya poetry to something, then they can compare it to Hadiths. There is evidence from those bodies of literature themselves that they were spread by the Qasassin (the storytellers). Those are entertainers who went from one town to the next telling their stories. Of course, the storytellers had to give the audience what they wanted to hear. Hence, for liberal audiences, they would tell the story of Imru-Al-Qays and his romantic endeavors or Qays Ibn Al-Mulawah and Layla. In more conservative towns, the storytellers would tell the stories of the monotheist poets and tales of courage and valor. Later, the same storytellers propagated Hadiths as the Abbasid theocracy took over and demand for religious programming increased. There is evidence from Bukhari's bibliography that he started out as one of those storytellers himself, traveling from town to town and gathering audiences like the circus. The following extract from Imam Bukhari's biography, recounts one of his performances while traveling to Baghdad:

"People had heard about the Imam Bukhari’s extraordinary memory. They decided to test him to see if the Imam was worthy of the attributes that were being issued to him. One hundred different ahaadeeth were chosen that had their testimonials and text altered. These altered ahaadeeth were to be recited to Imam Bukhari by ten people. By now, a crowd had gathered to witness the outcome of this deliberate test. One by one, each altered tradition was recited. The Imam remarked at the end of each recital: “Not of my knowledge.”

After all the traditions had been presented, the Imam demonstrated the power of his memory by correcting the testimonial and text of each tradition in order."

Of course, the above tale sounds more like circus entertainment and not the scientific endeavor that traditionalists paint. This unfortunate situation was described here:

31.6. Among the people, there are those who buy distracting sayings, to divert from the path of The God without knowledge, and take it in vain. These have incurred a shameful retribution.

In summary, so-called Jahiliya poetry has been proven to be a product of Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties' entertainers and political propagandists, the same social forces that produced Hadiths. The natural law of supply and demand and the storytellers spreading their tales from town to town explains the widespread dissemination of such fabrications without the need for a systematic conspiracy.

JAHILIYA HISTORY

Unfortunately, historians often rely on Jahiliya poetry to reconstruct the history of the "pre-quranic" period in Arabia. They also rely on "post-quranic" stories such as those produced by Ibn Is-haq. The most well known turning point in the history of "pre-quranic" Arabia seems to be the alleged Year of the Elephant. This is the year when an Abyssinian expedition under the leadership of Abraha was supposedly defeated while allegedly invading Maka(t). This is also the year when the prophet was supposed to be born. This year is given by traditional historians as the year 570AD.

Fortunately, we can objectively investigate the history of Abraha because in this case we have physical archeological evidence in the form of a very detailed inscription written to commemorate his expedition. This large inscription is depicted on a rock near a well in southern Arabia.

The Abraha inscription is an example of the kind of archeological evidence that provides information that totally contradicts the official view of Jahiliya history.

Transliteration:

"bi khayl Rahmanan wa masyha malikan Abraha Zybman malik Saba' wa Zuraydan wa Hadramut wa Yement wa r'a rab hamw twadam wa thamat satro zn satran k'ghazow ma'ndam ghazwatn rab'atan b'warkhan Zthbatan Kafa saadu kl bani amrm wa zaki malikn abjabar b ainam kadat wain w basharm bin hasahanm bainm san dam wa mardam wa hadaru qadami jayshan alia bani yamram kadat wail bi wad samrakh wa mardam wa sadam bi wad bi manhaj tarban wa zabahow wa sarw wa ghanamw zaisam wa makhdah malakin bi Halban wa dawn ka zalam maidam wrahanw wa badanahaw nwa sa'aham mw Amram Bin Mazran wa rahanamw bin haw wa sata khalafw ala ma'dam wa qafalw bin hal ( bi)n bi akhayal Rahmanan wa rakhaw zalan salthany w sathya ws."

Translation:

"With the power of the Almighty, and His Messiah King Abraha Zeebman, the King of Saba'a, Zuridan, and Hadrmaut and Yemen and the tribes (on) the mountains and the coast wrote these lines on his battle against the tribe of Ma'ad (in) the battle of al-Rabiya in the month of "Dhu al Thabithan" and fought all of Bani A'amir and appointed the King Abi Jabar with Kinda and Al, Bishar bin Hasan with Sa'ad, Murad, and Hadarmaut in front of the army against Bani Amir of Kinda. and Al in Zu Markh valley and Murad and Sa'ad in Manha valley on the way to Turban and killed and captured and took the booty in large quantities and the King and fought at Halban and reached Ma'ad and took booty and prisoners, and after that, conquered Omro bin al-Munzir.

(Abrha) appointed the son (of Omro) as the ruler and returned from Hal Ban (Halban) with the power of the Almighty in the month of Zu A'allan in the year sixty-two and six hundred."

The above inscription describes in detail the expedition of Abraha until his return. As one can clearly see, contrary to the fairy tales that we hear from traditionalists there is absolutely no mention of anything related to elephants, Kaaba(t), or Maka(t). According to the inscription it is Abraha who defeated and returned after conquering the Arab tribes and not the other way around as traditionalists contend.

It is not surprising that the inscription doesn't mention elephants. It would have been highly impractical to bring elephants into the desert and carry their weight in water. Moreover, elephants had fallen out of use as battle gear approximately seven centuries earlier. This is for the simple reason that elephants' feet are very sensitive and it is very easy to defeat elephants in battle by placing thorns or any sharp objects in their path. Elephants would have suffered greatly in the scorching sands of the desert without giving an invading army any advantage. Thus, it is very unlikely that Abraha used elephants.

Chapter 105 of the great reading doesn't say anything about Kaaba(t), Maka(t), or Abraha. In light of verses such as 11:82 and 15:74 that talk about the punishment of the people of Lot as being hit by "7ijarat min sijjil", the same exact Arabic term in chapter 105, the chapter is more likely to be referring to the people of Lot and not Abraha.

Another interesting fact that is confirmed by the great reading is that the southern Arabs at the time of the prophet used to call The God "Al-Rahman" (Rahmanan in Sabiac where the definite article is post-posed as "nan"). We don't find inscriptions in Northern Arabia with the name Rahman while we find it in Southern Arabian inscriptions so this name was used by Southern Arabs. The sign in 17:110 is in perfect agreement with the archeological evidence. We can now see that the opening of "Bism Allah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim" and the whole honorable reading was addressing both Northern and Southern Arabs and not just one tribe or the other.

In addition, there are also other interesting linguistic implications to how people living during "pre-quranic" times understood the language of the great reading. The term Al-Rahman is often interpreted in classical Arabic dictionaries to mean "Gracious" or "Beneficent". This is not in line with how the attribute is used in the great reading, where for example, in 19:45 we hear prophet Ibrahim say to his father, a rejecting idol-worshipper, "I fear you would be struck with the wrath of Al-Rahman." The word Al-Rahman in 19:45 is more likely to invoke fear of retribution as opposed to hope of benefit or grace. The Abraha inscription confirms the meaning of Al-Rahman as used in the great reading to mean an attribute that conveys power: The Almighty. Both physical archeological evidence (as opposed to hearsay) and the great reading are in perfect match on how people at the time of the prophet must have understood the meaning of Al-Rahman. Notice also in the inscription the use of "zaki" to mean "promote" and not "give charity".

Joseph Couq "L'Eglise d'Afrique du Nord du IIe au XIIe siecle" (1984) p. 120-1 shows examples of the Bismallah on coins rendered in Latin (76AH/695CE - 98AH/716CE) as "in nomine Dei misericordis" (in the name of God the Merciful). So it seems that only Al-Rahim was translated and the early post-quranic Arabs totally neglected to translate Al-Rahman. We see the same phenomena on bilingual North Arabian papyri, for example in early Arabic-Greek texts the word "Rahman" is not translated [See: H. I. Bell, "The Arabic Bilingual Entagion", Proceedings Of The American Philosophical Society, 1945, Volume 89, pp. 538-539; and Alan Jones, "The Dotting Of A Script And The Dating Of An Era: The Strange Neglect Of PERF 558", in Islamic Culture, 1998, Volume LXXII, No. 4, pp. 95-103]. This proves that even after the revelation of 17:110 the people of Northern Arabia were still confused about the meaning of Al-Rahman and hence didn't translate it.

As we have seen, the story of Abraha as told in the inscription is kind of dull and with no happy ending for the Arabs. On the other hand, the hearsay tales from sectarians are filled with amazing details, suspense, and drama. They capture people's imagination with the amazing detail of the character of an old frail man (the fictitious Abd Al-Mutilib) standing in the path of the Army of Abraha. The stories have special effects of amazing creatures (the elephants) and gore (the flesh and blood flowed like water and the skin of Abraha and his soldiers falling off and exposing the bones, etc.). These hearsay stories that the Arabs concocted long after the fact have very high entertainment value and appeal to the masses much as Hollywood flicks often do. However, they have no value for those interested in the truth. The Arabs were very proud of their forefathers as evident from the many inscriptions bearing family lineage and tribal affiliation. Thus, when they became in the seat of power, they rewrote history to turn their forefathers' humiliating defeat at the hands of Abraha into a legendary victory.

As a side note, the date on the inscription converts to 552AD. According to traditionalists, the prophet was born in the year of Abraha's expedition and they say that he was born in 570AD. So this pushes back the date of birth of the prophet by about 20 years. This creates a big problem for traditionalists. They now either have to revise the entire story of the prophet or they have to give up all their "Sahih" Hadiths. This is for the simple reason that all the chains of transmission of their Hadiths will now be broken as a result of pushing back the dates by 20 years.

As we see, even the most famous and well-known turning point in the history of Arabia, including the date of birth of the prophet, as recounted by traditionalists turned out to be problematic. Moreover, the archeological evidence has significant implications on how words such as "makka(t)" and "kaaba(t) should be understood.

MAKKA(T)

It is not surprising that the inscription of Abraha doesn't mention or even allude to a town called Maka(t). There is zero evidence for a town named Maka(t) prior to the revelation of the great reading and all sides of the debate on the historicity of Maka(t) agree that the name Maka(t) doesn't occur in any "pre-quranic" inscriptions. Those promoting the historicity of Makka are forced to bring the only one reference by Ptolmey to an insignificant town by the name of Macoraba and not Maka(t) for the simple reason that they know very well that there are absolutely no references to the supposedly important town of Maka(t). This despite the fact that there are many references, including the above Abraha's inscription, to far less important towns in Arabia than this alleged Makka(t).

According to classical Arabic dictionaries, the word "maka(t)" mainly means "destruction/wearing down", among other meanings. It is listed in classical Arabic dictionaries under either MKK or MK.

Al-Mohit lists it under MKK, the meaning given is destruction and wearing down which is consistent with the context of standoff in 48:24. It also lists the meaning of TMKK as an adversary's insistence on something, which is also consistent with the standoff in 48:24.

Lisan Al-Arab lists it under MK and the meaning of MK(t) is given as "destruction" and TMK as "destroy".

Al-Wasit lists it under MK, the meanings given are: sucking everything out, insisting on revenge from an adversary, and the thing, which is worn down or destroyed.

Al-Ghani lists it under MKK, the meanings given are: sucking, insisting with demands on an adversary.

Here is a translation of 48:24 using Classical Arabic dictionaries and the context of war from the verses to translate the common description "maka(t)":

48:24. And it is He Who has restrained their hands from you and your hands from them in the midst of destruction after that He gave you the victory over them. And Allah sees well all that ye do.

I used Yusuf Ali's translation but while he left "maka(t)" un-translated I didn't. As one can see, the clear classical Arabic meaning fits perfectly in the context of the military standoff in verse 48:24.

Based on the context from the great reading/"quran", linguistic evidence from Arabic dictionaries, and the lack of any evidence supporting that there was a "pre-quranic" town by the name of Maka(t), the only logical unbiased conclusion is that "maka(t)" is not the name of "pre-quranic" town but is simply a mundane common noun like thousands of others in the great reading/"quran".

It is not the purpose of this article to speculate about why or how this lie about the word "makka(t)" took hold. We know that worse lies such as the one about Jesus being the son of god (The God be most exalted above what they describe) took hold and propagated very quickly. So if humans can fabricate such a gross lie, they can certainly fabricate and propagate the much less significant lie about "makka(t)" being the name of a town. The Arab political and religious elite were in the habit of deceiving people by renaming what they themselves built long after the fact to match concepts in the great reading. For example, even traditionalists admit that what is currently named Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa was built during the time of the Umayyads and was named so long after the fact, and acknowledge that it is not "al-masjid al-aqsa" talked about in the great reading.

KAABA(T)

There is absolutely zero evidence of a "pre-quranic" shrine called Kaaba(t). There is an abundance of "pre-quranic" shrines in Arabia and none of them is described as Kaaba(t) in any of the thousands of inscriptions on or around those shrines. In fact, the name Kaaba(t) cannot be found in any "pre-quranic" inscriptions or manuscripts.

We know from the great reading that the "pre-quranic" Arabs adored idols named Allat, Aluzza, and Manwat (see 53:19-20). Those are all Nabataean idols. While Greco-Roman people have always represented their deities with human form, the Nabataeans represented their deities with geometric forms such as square stone blocks, sacred meteorites, or square shapes carved into a stone wall and sometimes enhanced with schematic eyes and nose. Historical sources, such as the Suda Lexicon, state that the Nabataean idol Dhu Al-Shaara's statue is an un-worked square black stone. Maximus of Tyre comments in his book Philosophoumena in the 2nd century AD, that the Arabs had a statue, which was a square stone. There is abundant archeological evidence that stone cubes like the one in the town presently called Maka(t) whose height is slightly longer than the other dimensions is a representation of the idol Dhu Al-Shaara. The pictures below depict some of the archeological evidence in Northern Arabia and Nabataean outposts.

Notice that the stone block on the right bears the name "Dusari", which is Dhu Al-Shaara in Greek. The name Kaaba(t) is never found on or associated with any of the "pre-quranic" Arab cubes, on the other hand we see that the name Dhu Al-Shaara is associated with such cubes. This leads us to the conclusion that in "pre-quranic" times the stone cube was not named Kaaba(t) but it was named Dhu Al-Shaara.

In the fourth century AD, Epiphanius, the bishop of Salamis, Cyprus wrote a letter describing cults such as the Nabataean cult and their celebration of the festival of the birth of Dhu Al-Shaara around the winter solstice. It is interesting that the birth celebrations culminated with bringing forth from beneath the earth the image of the male infant idol, which was carried seven times around the inner sanctuary of the pagan temple. [See Langdon, S., Semitic Mythology, The Mythology of All Races, Vol. V. Boston: Archaeological Institute of America, Marshall Jones Company, 1931, page 19.]

By renaming Dhu Al-Shaara to Kaaba, the pagans have managed to continue the practice of spinning seven times around Dhu Al-Shaara to this day under the guise of following the great reading.

Like the town presently called Maka(t), the stone cube idol was renamed from Dhu Al-Shaara to Kaaba(t) to match the common noun "kaaba(t)" in the great reading. Like the common "maka(t)", which has a meaning that fits in the context of 48:24, as a common noun "kaaba(t)" has a meaning fits in the context of 5:97.

The term "ka3b" is used in Arabic to describe the heel/base of the shoe. In rural areas of Northern Arabia, people still use the expression "ka3b al-wadi" to denote the base of the valley. Hence, the meaning of "kaaba(t) is "base". That meaning fits the context of 5:95 and 5:97:

5:97. The God has made the base the restriction house maintenance for the people and the restriction month and the gift/guidance and the means of control so that you know that The God knows what is in the heavens and the earth and that The God is knowledgeable with everything.

The house is the "base" where people can assemble safely.

2:125. And We made the house an assembly for the people and a safety and take from the persistence of Ibrahim a lesson and We made a covenant to Ibrahim and Ismail that cleanse my house for the passers by, and the remaining, and the humbly hearing and obeying.

This is a natural non-forced meaning like the house of representatives is the base of legislation where they assemble safely to make laws.

Historians differ on what Dhu Al-Shaara is. Some think that it is a mountain in Arabia while others think that it is heavenly body such as the sun or Venus. The Nabataeans were expert astronomers and they even used a calendar based on the Zodiac. They were also sea-faring people who traveled to all corners of the ancient world. Thus, they must have seen many mountains all over the world that are higher and more majestic than any mountain in Arabia. Hence, it is highly unlikely that Dhu Al-Shaara was some mountain in Arabia. Archeologists also have evidence that the idol Al-Uzza was Venus. Thus, this leaves us with the sun as the most likely Dhu Al-Shaara. The celebration of the idol's birth around the winter solstice is also an indication of a relationship to the sun. The present cube structure of Dhu Al-Shaara in Saudi Arabia also has evidence of its pagan purpose. For example, the cube is aligned such that the Southeast corner is in the direction of the winter sunrise. Interestingly, in that corner lies the so-called Black Stone, which is the most revered object by sectarians who love to kiss and fondle it.

Facing the winter sunrise during prayer was the common pagan practice. It was also the common Christian practice as evident from early Christian churches such as Hagia Sophia and Hagia Irene.

The Jews on the other hand, faced Jerusalem.

1 Kings 8:44

"When Your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way You shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city which You have chosen and the house which I have built for Your name"

The Jewish Talmud also has references to facing Jerusalem.

Tosefta Brachot 3:16

"Those in the north face the south, those in the south face the north, those in the east face the west and those in the west face the east so that all Israel prays toward one place"

Archaeological evidence confirms that synagogues from the "pre-quranic" era were roughly oriented to face Jerusalem. [For example, see: Avi-Yonah, M., Synagogue Architecture. In Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 15, New York: Macmillan, 1971.]

The niche of early congregational sites such as the one in Fustat in predominantly Christian Egypt was aligned with the direction of the winter sunrise. Similarly, other early congregational sites are oriented in a direction too far north of present day Makka(t) and are closer to Jerusalem, indicating that perhaps they were converted synagogues. Yet other congregational sites such as one recently found in Aqqaba, Jordan (The Oriental Institute News and Notes, No. 141, Spring 1994) and the one in 'Ana's castle in Iraq show that the direction of the niche was haphazard. Thus, two alternative conclusions can be made:

The direction of prayer was not important back then as it is now. Hence, people didn't bother to change the niche of early congregational sites that were originally churches or synagogues to face a new location.

Some of the early converts only converted superficially but continued in their Christian, pagan, or Jewish practices.

By studying the great reading, we already found out that a physical direction is not important (see: What's in the name?). The archeological evidence simply confirms what we already found out.

JAHILIYA LANGUAGE

As we saw earlier, Arabic was a common people language and not a scholarly or religious one. Thus, any religious meaning attached to an Arabic word is suspect and should be investigated thoroughly before it is accepted. In the great reading, we find an interesting phenomenon. Words with religious connotation in modern English such as "prayer" and "worship" do not occur at all in the great reading.

For example, the word "dua'a", which is traditionally understood as "prayer", doesn't have a religious connotation and is used many times in the great reading in mundane usages that have nothing to do with "prayer" (for example, see 28:25). Hence, it is best translated as "calling upon" and not as "prayer".

Similarly, the word "'abad", which is traditionally understood as "worship", is better understood as "serve" (for example, see 16:75, 2:221).

The term "deen" is traditionally understood as "religion". However, one can see that it is used in many instances to mean "obligation" (for example, see 56:86, 2:282, 4:11-12). The common non-religious Arabic meaning of "obligation" actually fits better in all the occurrence of "deen" in the great reading (see: What's in the name?).

The term "hajj" is traditionally understood as "religious pilgrimage". However, a closer study of the great reading reveals that the term has nothing to do with organized clergy-based religious pilgrimages. For example, we hear in 22:27:

22:27. And announce amongst people with the debate. They will come on foot and on every kind of lean transportation. They will come through every unobstructed passage.

In 22:27 that Ibrahim invited people with/"bi" the debate/"al-7ajj" and not to/"li" the debate/"al-7ajj" to witness benefits. Thus, the debate/"hajj" is a tool to attract different people from all over. One could only invite all people with something beneficial and non-discriminatory.

We are told in 28:27 that Moses was hired to work for eight debates/"7ijaj". What was hired to do? Clearly, he was hired to work and tend for sheep (28:23-24) and not for any religious pilgrimage. What does working and tending sheep has to do with the debate/"7ajj"? Naturally, people work and produce so that they can bargain with their products. Bargaining is a kind of debate and it results in witnessing benefits by the seller and the buyer. Thus, the debate/"al-7ajj" is like the annual fair where people work all year and then go to sell and/or buy products. Mid summer - early fall is the natural time for such markets because produce and livestock are plentiful (see: Blind Dating Versus Perfect Timing). The large gathering of the debate/"7ajj" provides a good opportunity to remind as many people as possible of The God. It is also an opportunity for the advantaged to donate and provide for the disadvantaged. This is confirmed by 22:28-29 where we are told about the purpose of the debate/"7ajj":

22:28-29. So that they may witness benefits for themselves and remember The God’s name in a few days over what He Has provided for them of the animal livestock. So eat from it and feed the needy and the poor. Then they would complete their duties and fulfill their vows, and would pass by the freeing house.

The restriction house is simply the place where people safely assemble to communicate and conduct the debate without fear of oppression. This restriction house helps spread freedom because oppressed people who come there and freely debate experience an environment free of oppression and they take that experience with them to induce freedom in their own communities. Debate is an essential process for accountability and dissemination of the best ideas in any free society. Thus, the concept of debate/"7ajj" has nothing to do with any special holy pilgrimage. It is an entirely common concept.

Similarly, we already saw that other concepts such as "salat"/learning connection are common concepts that are not specific to organized clergy-based religions (see: What's in the name?).

CONCLUSION

In summary, the sign in 16:103 has significant implications on how we can properly understand the great reading. Archeological evidence confirms the information we found by studying the great reading. Thus, a coherent picture of "pre-quranic" Arabia is starting to emerge.

Interestingly, while writing this article, a possible solution for an age old puzzle was inadvertently discovered. Many people have wondered about the initials at the beginning of some chapters of the great reading.

A closer look at those alleged initials reveals that they are not initials at all but are words. For example, here is how 2:1 is written now as a word:

الم
                                    

Had it been not a word but three initials as some people contend then it would have been written as follows:

ا ل م 

Clearly, there is a big difference.

Also, from Chapter 42 it is clear that the words at the beginning are words and not initials and we can't haphazardly separate them as initials because of the deliberate separation between "حم" and "عسق" when they could have been joined and written as:

حمسعق

Thus, The God deliberately separated the "حم" and "عسق" while He didn't separate الم into ا ل م in Chapter 2. Thus, this is more confirmation that الم should be considered a word and not three initials.

Even chapters that start with single letters should be read out as words and not spelled as initials. Spelling them out would be like spelling the single letter "وَ" at the beginning of Chapter 103 as "waw", for example, instead of reading it as "wa". The God gave us the great reading not the great spelling.

As we found out, Arabic is a common people language and not a formal religious one. So what do those words mean?

In all informal languages of the common people there are words that are either jargon abbreviation of other words or are slang words that people commonly use. As a language of the common people, Arabic would have been no exception. An example in colloquial American English would be words like "OK" and "yo".

Interestingly, chapter 20 starts with the word "taha". Here is what the Classical Arabic dictionaries say about the meaning of طه:

معناهُ يا رجُلُ بالحَبْشِيَّةِ

طَهْ مجزومة : إِنها بالحبشية يا رجل

It means "hey man" or the equivalent of "yo" in colloquial American English. The dictionaries attribute this word to the Southern Semitic language of Ethiopic, which is related to Southern Arabic dialects such as Hadramatic and Sabaic. So this slang word could have been borrowed into those Southern Arabic dialects.

In light of this information, let's fully translate 20:1-2:

20:1-2. Hey man, We didn't descend on you the reading to make you suffer.

As one can see, the meaning perfectly fits in the context of 20:2. Even though scholars and clergy would be shocked at hearing such an informal way of expression in a translation of the great reading, one must keep in mind that the real Classical Arabic at the time of the great reading was a common people informal language and not the formalized language that it is made out to be today. Hence, it is likely that when the clergy at the time of the prophet heard the great reading for the first time in Arabic, they had the same reaction as the present day clergy hearing the above translation.

Another example is in chapter 27 where the word "tas"/ طسappears. According to Classical Arabic dictionaries, the word means "delve/sink deep into something", amongst other meanings. Thus, 27:1 could be translated as follows:

27:1. Sink deep into these signs of the reading and a clarifying book.

Another example that appears at the beginning of multiple chapters is the word "tasam"/طسم. It appears in chapters 26 and 28. According to Classical Arabic dictionaries, "tasam" used by common people to mean "sharpen" and "study", among other meanings.

والعامَّة تقول طسَّم الموسى. أي استحدَّها على الطسمة

يَطْسِمُ طُسُوماً دَرَسَ

Thus, 26:1-2 and 28:1-2 could be translated as follows:

26:1-2. Sharpen/study these signs of the clarifying book.

The Arabic word "ham"/ حم, which appears in chapters 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46 also has a meaning. According to Classical Arabic dictionaries the meaning is something that is "intended" or "destined":

حَمَّهُ: قصد قصده.- اللّه كذا: قضاه وقدّ ره

حُمَّ يُحَمُّ حَمّا :- الأَمرُ: قُضي؛

(حُمَّ): الأمْرُ بالضم (حَمّاً) قُضِيَ وله ذلك قُدِّرَ

وحَمَّ حَمَّهُ) قَصَدَ قَصْدَهُ)

Thus, 40:1-2 can be translated as follows:

40:1-2. It is intended/destined revelation of the book from The God, the Powerful, the Knower.

Similarly, 41:1-2, 45:1-2 and 46:1-2 can be translated as follows:

41:1-2. It is intended/destined revelation from the Almighty, the Merciful.

45:1-2. It is intended/destined revelation of the book from The God, the Powerful, the Wise.

46:1-2. It is intended/destined revelation of the book from The God, the Powerful, the Wise.

44:1-3 can be translated as follows:

44:1-3. It is intended/destined and a clarifying book. We descended it in a blessed night for We were warning.

In chapter 42, we have two words that have been traditionally considered as initials. We already found out what "ham"/ حمmeans. According to Classical Arabic dictionaries, the other word "'asaq"/ عسق means "following closely" and "pollinate/pollination". Thus, 42:1-3 can be translated as follows:

42:1-3. It is intended/destined pollination, like that is how you and those before you are inspired by The God the Powerful, the Wise.

Finally, 43:1-3 can be translated as follows:

43:1-3. It is intended/destined and a clarifying book. We have made it an Arabic reading so that perhaps you will be logical.

Interestingly, we started this study with 43:3 and now we came a full circle and ended up with a possible solution for the age-old mystery of what the word in 43:1 means in the context of 43:1-3.

Given that Arabic at the time of the great reading was an informal common people language with many slang words, it is not surprising that the first scholars to codify the language were not Arabs but were Persians. No scholar who is a native speaker would codify what they consider to be informal "street talk". Scholars only codify formal languages. Later as the Arabs interacted with other nations and tyrannical leaders and the religious elites revived their symbiotic existence, Arabic was transformed into a formal "religious" language that the common people need the clergy to understand for them. The slang words at the beginning of the chapters defied codification by their very nature because slang by definition doesn’t follow any rules. However, they serve as a sign for us that The God can take inconsistent man-made human communication and use it to compose a consistent and powerful message. They also serve as a reminder that The God is addressing the people directly and that the self-styled religious elite do not have any role in our obligation to The God.

To refute the traditionalist theories about the alleged initials, all that had to be done is prove one set of the alleged initials to be a word that has meaning and fits in the context. In this article, not just one but eleven of the sets of initials were proven to be words that have meanings that fit in the context. This leaves us with 18 that are not yet deciphered and for which further research is needed. As our understanding and that of our children improves, we would be able to decipher them with The God's help, unless He wills otherwise.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:

2:2. This is the book no doubt in it, a guidance for the forethoughtful.

This article reflects my personal interpretation of the verses of the reading as of February 3, 2005. I will try to improve my understanding of the great reading and the universe, except if The God wills and perhaps my Lord guides me to what is nearer in rationality. Please verify all information within for yourself as commanded in 17:36, and remember that simply "none" is the forethoughtful answer to 45:6. If The God willed, the outcome of this article will be beneficial.

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