Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Mohammadan Parable (Unexpurgated)

I begin here with a parable that comes under the heading: You can make this stuff up, and there will be believers.

It seems that Mohammad was an Area 51 junkie centuries before the place was laid out by the U.S. government. He was one of the original Predators (his band of merry acolytes being mere predators), slashing his way through the Arabian Peninsula, beheading and mutilating non-believers wherever he found them, especially if they were caught hiding behind rocks. Now and then, one supposes, he gazed up at the heavens, and wondered if there were others like him in the universe. Then he would rouse himself, leave the side of the captive woman or nine-year-old girl he had just raped, pad over to another partitioned section of his commodious tent, and call for his biographer.

“Take a note, Abdullah,” he commanded when the harried-looking man arrived, slightly groggy with disturbed sleep. “Gabriel just spoke to me again. There are other planets out there! See those stars?” he exclaimed, pointing to the roof of the tent. “They’re really shining planets, and they are home to beings just like us, and they all acknowledge Allah as the one true God. If they don’t, it means war, it means jihad, and righteous conversion. We shall slay the jinns of Satan!”

Abdullah said, “Well, that’s all find and good, but…How do we get there?”

“Get where?”

“Where the infidel aliens live.” The biographer was seated cross-legged on his straw mat, parchment and ink pot at the ready on a low stand before him. His quill was poised in his left hand to take down the words of the Prophet.

Mohammad was too distracted by the novelty of his new message, and did not notice this left-handed and insulting breach of etiquette. “Allah will fly us there, in magic bubbles. Or on carpets, or broomsticks. He’ll think of something. He is all-powerful.”

“Camels and steeds, too?”

“Of course. Or, Allah will just provide them. He wouldn’t expect us to walk into an infidel city and take it over, would he? We’d look pretty silly. We must scare the Beejesus out of the infidel aliens! Our mounts will appear magically on those worlds. They will be magnificent, and be comfortably saddled, and not need water or forage.” Mohammad waxed poetic. “And we will be armed with the finest swords and spears, gleaming with merciless justice, true at every thrust, and we will be garbed in cloaks of invincibility.”

He paced excitedly back and forth before Abdullah, his mind reeling with visions of conquest. He wondered what alien women looked like. Did they wear veils? Or burkas? Maybe they looked like burkas, with mandibles over their mouths and boasting many stringy, handless arms! Oh, well, nothing risked, nothing gained! Women aren’t everything! He imagined that their men-folk had amassed fortunes in gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And an unlimited banquet of dates, nuts, and kosher delicacies. Kosher? No, no, he meant halal delicacies! Allah be merciful and forgive me!

Mohammad pinched himself once as punishment for the unclean thought.

Abdullah busied himself and scribbled away, his tongue lodged firmly in his left cheek. Then he paused and looked quizzical. “Master, there is one thing I do not understand.”

“What?”

“Why would they not come to us? After all, you are the mountain. It would only be proper.”

“It is Allah’s will that we go to them. We couldn’t very well spread the faith if we did not venture forth. What kind of a missionary would I be, if we just sat on our heinies and waited for them to come to Mohammad? Sometimes, compromise is a virtue. It’s in the Koran there. I said so!” He pointed to a mass of pages at Abdullah’s side, next to masses of pages that were the Torah and proof-pages of the Bible. His past biographers had found it necessary to adapt some of the material from those works to spice up the Koran, to give it some momentum and action, and also authority.

Abdullah demurred on this point. He scratched his turban once, then asked, “There is another thing. If Allah is all-powerful, and made all living things, including us and the Jews and pagans and other non-believers, why didn’t he just make us all believers, and save you the trouble of killing them? It seems rather short-sighted of him. And not a little whimsical!” Abdullah shook his head, and added with some indignation, “For a Potentate of the Universe, methinks he has a self-esteem deficiency that does not comport with his reputation. He is against idolatry, but wishes to be idolized himself. It would explain his need to be worshipped, to be the center of attention. It all seems a bit narcissistic to me.” Abdullah smiled. “Pardon me for saying so, but I think many of your lieutenants are also full of themselves.”

Mohammad thoughtfully stroked his beard, causing some lice to change abodes, and cast a baleful eye on the biographer. He held out a commanding hand. “Let me see what you have written.”

Abdullah handed him the new Koranic page.

Mohammad read. He cocked his head in appreciation. Reading was a new skill to him, and he did not understand half the words. But what he read was nebulous and ambiguous enough to be taken any way one wished. It read like a glorious prophecy. Worthy of that upstart, Moses. And of Nostradamus. Or Madame Blavatsky. He had knowledge of these future infidel prophets, for the angel Gabriel had whispered their names to him in his past dreams. Still, he scowled. He hummed in doubt, and glanced down at his biographer.

What means this, dog??” he barked, holding the page out and pointing to an image Abdullah had absently doodled over the script while the Prophet was careening through the stars. It was a likeness of Mohammad, a fair representation of his visage, and accurate to a fault. There was a prominent mole on his left cheek, and an unsightly sty over his right eye. A long scar also ornamented his right cheek, put there not by an enemy’s sword, but by the nails of an infidel woman who had resisted his urgings. He had slain her on the spot, and felt cheated. But righteous.

Abdullah knew the story, but it meant nothing to him. It was impolitic to mention the Prophet’s less glorious episodes. A strong desert breeze blew. The tent swayed and its supporting poles creaked ominously. He cringed before the silent rebuke of his Master, suddenly regretting his outspokenness. He wished now that he had taken that reporter’s job in Haifa.

The next morning, Mohammad advertised for a new biographer. Abdullah’s head was perched atop a spear planted outside the Prophet’s tent. A sign on parchment hung by a cord from around its neck. It read: “Wanted: Ghost-Writer. Must believe everything I say. Spoils of war to be negotiated. Generous retirement plan (not this person’s). Blasphemers and Irish need not apply.”


Yes, I made up that parable. However, here are some excerpts from serious approaches to the Koran. When it comes to outer space and aliens, Muslims had the West beat by 1,400 years. Don’t “believe” me? Take a gander.
Within Islam, the statement of the Qur’an, "All praise belongs to God, Lord of all the worlds" suggests multiple universal bodies, and maybe even multiple universes, which may indicate extraterrestrial and even extradimensional life.

According to Ahmadyya, Islam as a more direct reference from the Quran is presented by Mirza Tahir Ahmad as a proof that life on other planets may exist according to the Quran. In his book, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth, he quotes verse 42:29 "And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and of whatever living creatures (da'bbah) He has spread forth in both...” according to this verse there is life in heavens. According to the same verse "And He has the power to gather them together (jam-'i-him) when He will so please"; indicates the bringing together the life on Earth and the life elsewhere in the Universe. The verse does not specify the time or the place of this meeting but rather states that this event will most certainly come to pass whenever God so desires. It should be pointed out that the Arabic term Jam-i-him used to express the gathering event can imply either a physical encounter or a contact through communication.

In Shia Islam the 6th Imam Ja’far al-Sidiq has been quoted as saying that there are living beings on other planets.

Of course, taking the Koran literally is much like believing that Charlie Sheen, Russell Crowe, and Mel Gibson all got gold stars from their anger management monitors. More likely, because the Koran, like the Bible and the Torah, was a work-in-progress for centuries, some anonymous, bored, and underpaid scribe, and perhaps even Ja’far al-Sadiq himself, had a tad too much spiked date juice, and let his imagination run away with him. And perhaps that alien Jodie Foster met on Vega after a wild ride on an interstellar subway train in Contact was really Allah in disguise (taking a leaf from Zeus). If it was, she was lucky she didn’t get the Lara Logan treatment.

End of story.

7 comments:

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Did you ever read the sci-fi paperback High Crusade? In it, some aliens in need of barbarians conveniently rescue a crusader army that is on the brink of defeat. (Don't ask why, I don't remember and anyway, this was pulp fiction). As I recall once they do the job for aliens, they are to be returned to the crusade, but by that point they had gotten used to amenities like 500 years with a bath, and decide to become civilized.

But seriously, I am no Arabic Scholar, but I do know Hebrew. In Hebrew, the term "olamim" which means "worlds" is often used. The final phoneme "eme" is the plural. There are also places in Torah and Talmud where the term "from world to world" or "worlds without end" are used. The problem is that the term really implies an infinity, and can be taken to mean infinite space and infinite time. The word "Olam", often translated as "world" really means something like "all space and time". The plural is a multiplier--meaning more of it all--rather than a simple more than one of it all. The same is true for one of the biblical words that denote god: Elohim. Note the plural "eme" ending again. Translators usually clean these up, because translation is necessarily interpretation as well. But that ending could imply that there is more than one of the god of Israel, but more likely (from context) it implies an infinity.

This may have nothing to do with Mohammed and the Koran, but then again, Arabic is a younger relation to the Hebrew language, and both descend from Akkadian. There are many cognates between the two languages.

Still, it would be nice if perhaps some alien culture decides to rescue Islam from defeat and transports it far away from us. It would save us all a great deal of trouble . . .

Edward Cline said...

Elisheva: Thank you for your learned remarks here. The truth is that I began working on a commentary and while doing research, also out of curiosity searched for how many other sites picked up the “Islam the Alien” piece. I found a few (Including Family Security Matters), but was shocked to see so many other sites that discussed Islam and Aliens and UFO’s, etc., some of them seriously parsing the Koranic verses about “aliens” and “other worlds,” and some utterly loopy.

That put the notion in my head to write a short skit about Mohammad and Abdullah that you read, and I banged that piece out instead. It was a lot of fun. (I happen to be working on my third Roaring Twenties detective novel, so I’m in a fiction-writing mode at the present). However, it was hard to pick links to the sites that discussed the Koran and aliens or “jinns,” so I just, in a manner of speaking, “threw a dart.” I may turn that piece into a one-act play as genuine satire.
Ed

Damien said...

Edward Cline,

I loved the movie Contact. I never read Carl's novel, so I can't say much about it, but I thought the movie was great.

Personally, I wonder how people would behave if aliens arrived tomorrow, religious or not. I think a lot would depend on what the aliens were like and how they behaved when they first came met us.

As for Aliens and Islam, there's been a lot on aliens and the Bible as well, but most of it is really just reinterpretations of the bible stories. I think we can safely assume that the same is true for the stories in the Koran for the most part. Even if there are some thing in there that seem to suggest that the Koran was talking about Aliens or even there possibility, it also could be that its just the modern mind interpreting the text through a modern lens. "All praise belongs to God, Lord of all the worlds" certainly sounds like it could be talking about God ruling over multiple planets, and maybe some would have aliens, and "And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and of whatever living creatures (da'bbah) He has spread forth in both...” sounds like it could be talking about aliens, but is that just a modern interpretation? I wonder how those words were originally interpreted.

Damien said...

Elisheva,

I saw a movie called High Crusade, and it was about Medieval Knights and aliens, only the story was radically different in the movie than what you describe as being in that book. For one thing, in the movie, the aliens are hostile. They don't come to help the crusaders, they come to basically conquer the Earth. Also, I don't know about the book, but the movie I saw was a comedy.

Anonymous said...

Elisheva,

David Weber gave a similar story the Hardback! treatment in "The Excalibur Alternative." Except in his case, one alien "trading" faction had grabbed off a Roman Legion that it was using it to beat the holy &@#$ out of the competition.

The competition didn't care for this much but by the time they got back to earth, the best available were English longbowmen. Who had a pesky bit of autonomy in their makeup. The outcome was not what the alien traders expected.

It originally started as a short story entitled, "Sir George and the Dragon." A bit whimsical but if you like mixed genres rather fun to read. I've not given any spoilers that you won't encounter in the first chapter anyway.

c. andrew

Edward Cline said...

From my perspective (as a Romantic Realist novelist), these stories are in the asteroid belt of fantasy literature. At the moment, I’m thinking of the Harry Turtledove novels, which I’ve only glanced through in bookstores. One I think saw the earth threatened by an alien invasion during WWII, so all the combatants – the U.S., the Soviets, the Nazis, and the Japanese – form an alliance to fight off the aliens. Don’t know how it ended because the premise was too far out for me to skip to the end. Another novel was “The Guns of the South” (can’t recall the author’s name), in which some South African apartheidists invent a time machine to go back to the American Civil War and arm General Lee’s army with automatic weapons, with which they defeat Union forces, capture Lincoln, and win the war of secession. Then Lee turns around and frees the slaves. Things go wrong, and the South Africans go back to where they came from, leaving Lee, I think, wondering what the hell the Apple computer they left behind was.

Ed

Damien said...

Edward Cline,

I think many stories about time travel are rather unbelievable. For one thing, that story you brought up “The Guns of the South” about South Africans going back in time to help the south win the civil war is a case in point. I did not read it, but it sounds like it would involve many potential paradoxes. If they succeeded in helping the South win the civil war and slavery continued, they would have than had no reason to go back in time in the first place. Also by altering the past in that way, they could end up preventing themselves from existing in the first place, since the events that led to their own parents might not even occur if they changed history in such a radical manner.

Some scientists have suggested that, that might mean one of three things, time travel is impossible, since there would be multiple paradoxes otherwise, and the universe would not make sense, or every time someone alters the past, it doesn't change our reality, it creates a new parallel universe instead, or, you could travel back in time, but the laws of nature themselves would see to it that you could never change anything.