I came, I sawm, I conquered…

No, that isn’t a typo in the title. Yes, it is another one of my trademark painful interlingual puns.

Fasting – known as “sawm” – during Ramadan is one of the so-called five pillars of Islam, or obligations described in Islamic texts, which many Muslims follow, alongside actions such as prayer, giving alms and making the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Thus spake today’s article on the topic in the Daily Telegraph.  They seem to have missed one of the five pillars, as I can only count four there, but such errors have never been known to bother the modern journalist. For the sake of completeness I will provide the whole list of these so-called “pillars”: shahadah (or “testifying” which means stating their belief that Allah is the name of the only God and his messenger is Mohammed as if it were fact) prayer, fasting, almsgiving and pilgrimage to Mecca.

Some of these are one off activities, some not. Everyone who doesn’t have a health exception is expected to do the hajj pilgrimage once in their lives. The sawm or fasting in Ramadhan is a yearly event, and zakat or almsgiving is supposed to be 2,5% of money assets a year. Salat, or prayer (from which we presumably get the term “lettuce pray”in English) is several times a day and is a ritual. You are supposed to find the qibla which to the disappointment of Poles is actually the direction to the Ka’aba, that big black box in Mecca with the demon-possessed stone built into the side of it, the meteor  that Satan was clinging to when cast down to the earth, I assume it is. And they bow down to it. This is the same structure that they walk around seven times on their hajj, venerating this space rock while at the same time congratulating themselves on being free of any form of idolatry.

Why is all this suddenly topical and written about in the Telegraph? Well, it might be as a timely reminder to the new Germans who showed their true colours around Cologne Cathedral as 10,000 of them fired rockets at ordinary Germans and sexually assaulted the German ladies which the Germans are so pussified as to have allowed them to do and are now seeking legal solutions when if ever a Jew would have even thought of doing something like this 80 years ago a whole bunch of Germen would have kicked the Knoblauchsentsorgungsvorbereitungs-massnahmeneinheitigkeiten out of them. Now nothing. So the Telegraph might well have wanted to remind the new Germans that those five are supposed to be the pillars and not, as it appears in practice:

1. raping and paedophilia
2. looting, mugging and stealing while demanding that such people have their hands cut off as long as it isn’t a fellow muslim
3. practising taqiyyah and generally lying and spreading untrue propaganda about themselves to gullible liberals who take it at face value
4. bombing, beheading, stabbing, shooting and any kind of brutality
5. complaining and demanding special privileges and taking immense and puerile umbrage whenever anyone shows them the fruits of their vile credo.

But actually that wasn’t the reason the Telegraph wrote about it. The Telegraph instead was explaining how this year schools are going to have to change their exam schedules because Ramadhan falls in June. This is a special privilege of the type mentioned in point 5 above, of course, on the backdrop of Easter holidays having been eroded from 2 weeks when I were a lad down to a mere few days now.

This is to prevent any exam disadvantage coming to anyone who is fasting.

Well, there are so many things one could say about this one. First off, children are exempt from fasting and while you are taking your school exams you are basically still a child in our law. The exemption ought to apply.  If someone chooses to fast because they wish to do so, they would be well advised to consider that sacrifices, including fasting, are not supposed to cost us nothing, that’s what sacrifice means. Of course to the Muslim, fasting only really means delaying a full set of calories until the sun is down.  One of many things which prove that Islam is man-made as a real God would have known that there are parts of earth where the sun doesn’t actually go down. The big meal they have in the evening more than makes up for building up an appetite for it during the day. Calling it a month-long fast is a joke.

Secondly, fasting actually sharpens the mind. I used to avoid breakfast and a mid-day meal when taking professional exams and found that helped. Maybe the Islamic kids will be sluggish because they are still digesting the huge meal they get in Ramadhan just before they go to sleep.

Thirdly, I would like to know why it is that of these pillars of Islam, we get forced to take this particular one so seriously when Muslims themselves clearly are not taking the Hajj seriously.

The Hajj is now reportedly attended by 6 million people a year. More simply won’t fit anyway and each year there are nasty accidents from overcrowding. So 6 million is what we can call the viable run rate. There are currently 1,600 million Muslims in the world, and somehow this number is obligated to go, sometime in the next 80 years if that’s the life expectancy (by which the Muslim population might be far far higher) so if we divide 1600 million by 80 we get 20 million. That’s the number that has to be going every year. The people excused for sickness are offset by the number who go more than once – there are those who have been many, many times.

This means evidently that the religion is man-made, as a real God would realise that the observance required was not mathematically feasable and only putting lives at risk. I don’t see such requirements in Judaism or Christianity. It is similar to the requirement in Buddhism for chastity and monastic living, which if it were taken seriously by everyone who calls himself a Buddhist would mean that Buddhism would have died out centuries ago from the lack of offspring, instead of being observed most in countries with the most pressing population issues.

So if Muslims are not even taking their own five pillars seriously, I fail to see why examining boards in Christian countries need to bend over backwards with a scimitar at their throat in orange jumpsuits to accommodate them.

Comments are open, and any Muslim who feels like doing his own bit of jihad in blasting what I just said is welcome to comment. Commenting certainly beats chopping off heads which is what seems to be the main line of argument in use by our Muslim friends today. You can say what you like, I am only cutting spam in this site. Commentators are allowed a very broad leeway as they also are on the Facebook  group I moderate which is “Polyglots No Holds Barred”.

I cannot comment on the Telegraph any more, as they rapidly closed their comments section – they are always uneasy on that site about giving people too much say, and only a small minority of articles on this topic have any response at all at what there is is heavily moderated. One could still vote in the poll and 88% were against the proposals of changing the exam schedule for Ramadhan.










10 thoughts on “I came, I sawm, I conquered…

  1. There was so much prejudice in this article masquerading as fact that you left me thinking Satan has overwhelmed you completely. To make matters worse, your contemptuous remarks about the newspaper not knowing the first pillar of Islam, and your pitiful “correction”, was hilarious if it weren’t so serious in exposing you as a pseudo-intellectual incapable of quoting “the other side” accurately. You may disagree with Islam but at least respect your readers and write what Muslims actually believe accurately and let the readers make up there own mind. Islam is a deep teaching and true Islamic scholars spend 18 years just learning about their tradition. I seriously doubt the late Christopher Hitchens had “read” the Quran as it is written in Classical Arabic, requires teachers to explain it and is not a linear book to be read from beginning to end to understand it. In some deep way you have more in common with those butchers from ISIS than ordinary Muslims. A word of advice: stick to what you know best…it’s embarrassing…especially when some of us are assuming you did your research correctly and are promoting your technique.

    1. I approve this comment as your right to reply but you have not given me a single actual example of something I said wrong and why it’s wrong. So I take it as more of an emotional response than a technical/intellectual one.

      Let me go through your points one by one.

      1. the point about Satan is interesting as I know that being a bringer of truth I am regularly attacked by Satan, and one such attack is precisely using you as a vehicle. No overwhelming is on the cards, though. I feel rather underwhelmed from this particular attempt and think that your master can probably do better, not that I am asking for it, but I know the lord provides.

      2. The newspaper failed to give all the pillars even after stating there were five, I don’t know why you should object to the correction of it. I am fairly contemptuous of any media which withholds information – that’s their role, to give accurate and full, timely info and they are, unlike me, paid to do it.

      3. “write what Muslims believe accurately” – well, the thing is that they do believe a certain range on these topics. there are many “good Muslims” who don’t actually believe a word of it, but they have not got any reason or desire to risk their skin by being public about this point. In many places I know Islam is purely a cultural matter with nobody being particularly active in its practice, a featured shared of course with a lot of places nomially Christian too, but I don’t really expect to take that as my lodestar of what Islam is any more than I would take a dead Christian place like Finland as a lodestar of what essential Christianity is. How about you tell me what I have written that doesn’t reflect what Muslims believe and I’ll identify Muslims who do indeed believe that and can probably argue for it as least as well as those who disagree.

      4. The point about 18 years is not really relevant. You can’t really get a 100% grounding in Christian history and theology in that time, but this does not stop people beinge able to make challenging points about Christianity which we take seriously even if the person is a beginner. This point about the 18 years is what is known in the science of arguing as “special pleading”. It also falls nicely into the strawman and argument-to-authority fallacies.

      5. Talking of strawmen, I don’t know why Christopher Hitchens suddenly makes a cameo appearance. I did not mention Christopher Hitchens and have no basis of agreement with him. I am however pretty supportive of his surviving brother Peter Hitchens, who debated against Christopher publicly many times before CT died in 2011.

      6. The point about needing Arabic simply underscores the Arabic nationalism intrinsic to Islam. Saying it is not a linear book to be read from beginning to end is just a way of saying it is unlike the real books of revelation by God a total disjointed chaos making so little cohesive sense that it could be chopped up and placed back together simply in the order of the length of the Suras without doing it any harm at all, except for the first Sura as this is the single and only Sura that can be read and appreciated by most human beings and therefore got put in front.

      7. As to me having more in common with butchers from ISIS than ordinary Muslims, I think it is really funny. I can only react with laughter to this absurd statement.

      8. Thanks for your “word of advice”, but given that you are conflicted in this I don’t think that your advice qualifies as impartial, and without that has little if any value.

      I am not sure what you meant with the last few words but if you are trying to bring the GLM into this, it’s also a non-point. GLM works and is used by hundreds of people now who like to use it – some every day. I get nothing from this, it is a free gift to humanity. Jesus said “Freely you have received, freely give”. I do not need to persuade anyone to use it as I get paid the same, namely zero, whether they do or they don’t. On the contrary I am answering questions to people voluntarily and this costs my time, so if someone wants to say “this person’s theology is abhorrent to me, therefore I am not going to use his method”, well, quite frankly that’s your loss and none of my concern.

      You’re welcome to write again.

      Writing what Muslims believe

  2. The late, great, Christopher Hitchens and the living Sam Harris are both gentlemen who have read the Koran and the Hadith in their entirety and reached very different conclusions from you Monir. The fact that any individual mammal decides to write down information that they purport to have received from a higher existence than their own does not make it true. There is absolutely no EVIDENCE for the existence of any supernatural creator. whatsoever, and even if there were, what makes believers think that the creator would have the slightest interest in their feeble doings on this tiny planet we happen to live on. The fact that the Judaeo/Christian/Islamic writings are all couched in terms of fear, retribution and punishment to be meted out by a supernatural god if adherents do not conform to the teachings, seems diametrically opposed to peace, love and tolerance do you not think ?
    There might be existence outside of anything we can comprehend but neither you nor any other adherent of any earthly belief system can claim to know the details of this.
    I might be running the risk of being damned for all time by the creator god you believe in but that is my risk. What I will not accept is ANY other earthly being telling me what I should believe in on the basis of inadequate evidence.
    I might add that taking that stance requires far more courage than to let others do my thinking for me.
    I wish you and all genuine adherents of peace and non-violence a very fulfilling new year irrespective of their belief system.


    1. Alan, thanks for that. I just want to pick up on on point. I quote “What I will not accept is ANY other earthly being telling me what I should believe in on the basis of inadequate evidence.”

      Well obviously people do tell each other what to think the whole time – it’s an inavoidable part of being a social animal and even your above comments are intrinsically telling me I ought to only accept something if I have full empirical evidence.

      Well, there are all sorts of facts and observable things going on in the world, both physical and in abstract, which can be called upon as evidence of various things. You only need to read Kant’s critique of pure reason (good luck with that) to see that in fact human beings don’t get very far building up reality on pure reason based on pure evidence. We live in a place which, rightly, wrongly, relevently or irrelevently simply lacks sufficient evidence to answer the most basic questions a human being might answer. Who am I? Why am I here? Should there be a why? What is “here”? What is time and can anything exist outside of it, what is matter and can anything similar to matter be existing in the same space and we just can’t see it? We simply do not know the answers to where everything came from, even if there was a big bang what happened before it, what else there might be other than the physical realm, huge as it appears, and does the fact that I am sentient and can even wonder about these questions not mean ini and of itself that a metaphysical answer must a priori exist which science can not give me and which I may be required to work out as best I can from a whole range of clues, not all of which come from science?

      You say, nobody should be trying to persuade me of anything unless they can bring me specific empirical evidence. Do you not realise that in that case, give the level of evidence there is ever likely to be, that you chance of understanding why you are here and whether there’s a God who knows you and expects anything at all from you or not are precisely zero?

      Anything has to be better than that.

      I sometimes ask atheists/agnostics or however they wish to self-identify what would it take for them to believe in God. They sometimes say (without wishing to put words in your mouth, maybe you would not say so) that they would only believe in God if he presented Himself to them beyond reasonable doubt, or that somebody could prove him using experimental science. Do you not see that in this way, the only thing that would enable you to believe in God is the thing which makes belief impossible? Belief, faith – it is only possible where there is no knowledge. God did in the past present Himself in this way to certain generations. Usually to people who already had shown they believed and needed guidance or rescuing as in a pillar of cloud and fire and the parting of the Red Sea, or tongue of fire on Pentecost. But the vast majority of people have had very few such outright displays of God’s existence and power, For over 99% of the human race, we have to make do with handed down stories second hand that we can only hear of but NOT see ourselves. There has to be a reason for this. Almost everyone has also seen some things which they can choose to interpret as a sign to them but could, should they wish to, simply dismiss as coincidences. You might wonder why that is, or you might try to find some statistical explanation. But in any event according to the Christian world view in which salvation is by faith and faith comes by hearing not by sight, there is no surprise whatsoever that God order the world in such as way as He can be seen in every tree and flower but cannot be boiled down to appear in a scientist’s test tube to cries of “Quod (or God) erat demonstrandum”!

      So no, I am not going to give you evidence. I will also not force you to think anything. It would be valueless if I could. What I will do, for as long as you have patience to read is, is give you something to think about.

      All the very best in 2016 to you too.

      1. David, thanks for your response. There is always something to think about on ‘Huliganov T.V.’ which is why I’m a compulsive viewer ! I have always welcomed your approach to discussion and differences of viewpoint, which is one of tolerant and courteous agreement or disagreement as the case may be. I am certainly of the opinion that dogmatism of any hue (religious, political, scientific or philosophic) has no value or place in a civilised discussion. Nor does it lead to any greater understanding of the subject over which one might not agree.
        As you are, I’m sure, well aware, it is not possible to prove the existence or non-existence of a universal, creative power that we humans choose to label ‘God’. Therefore it comes down to belief (faith) or non-belief (no faith) . It seems to me that your faith is of the ‘Father George Coyne’ (George V. Coyne, S.J. Jesuit priest, astronomer, and former director of the Vatican Observatory and head of the observatory’s research group) variety or what I like to term an intelligent faith based on wide experience and wide reading and a balanced understanding of emotional and spiritual life.
        I am impressed with Father George Coine’s expression of faith which he says does not conflict with his scientific life (or did not,as he is now retired from his position as research leader) and whilst he recognises that certain elements of his faith like the resurrection, cause many of his scientific colleagues difficulties, nonetheless he accepts the ressurection of the body purely as a matter of faith. He goes on to say that he has little patience with a literal interpretation of the gospels and that he fully accepts Darwin’s evolution of the species by accomodatory genetic mutation to the environment.
        Whilst I am unable to share his faith in God, I do at least have some understanding of why others do not share my inability to believe in an unseen (and by this I mean “seen” both in its literal and in its wider and figurative sense ; sensation of ; audible presence or emotional registering of) universal force that sustains the cosmos.
        Even if I came to accept deism (and this is likely to be the nearest I would come to belief in a religious or spiritual sense)
        I do not foresee me ever acknowleging the existence of a personal God that has a relationship with His creation.
        The Hindu notion of a God outside of its creation makes more sense to my (necessarily limited) human understanding.
        The belief that God created humankind expressly with them in ‘mind’ (Hitchens’s solipsistic view of religion) is surely not a rational stance.
        The non-theistic view of the universe arises out of questions like ‘why should there be any purpose to the universe ?’ ; Why should there be any reason for our (all sentient life human and other) existence ? What makes the “why am I here ?” question A valid question ? And, whilst it is certainly not unanimous within the scientific community, there seems to be a greater consensus that something can indeed come from nothing (depending on how we define ‘nothing’ of course) and hence the idea of a universal creator is turned on its head.
        In the interests of reasonable brevity I think it might suffice to say that the two camps “belief” and “non-belief” stem from two psychological states. The one (faith) being a need for security and substantiation ; its opposite stemming from a hardnosed look at our current state of knowledge of what exists given our limited (but expanding) tool set. A somewhat bleak response to an indifferent and hostile universe.
        Just going back to your point that :-
        “God is the thing which makes belief impossible? Belief, faith – it is only possible where there is no knowledge.”
        This is really saying that where we currently lack knowledge we must attribute causes and manifestations of an unknown reality to God…the classic “God of the gaps” argument. It might, of course be that God, in the Christian sense, IS a reality but to believe that on the basis that it COULD be an answer in the end is an individual choice.
        Many, including Fr. Coine, say theirs is a God of love and this is where I fully endorse (some) believers outlook. Human compassion and an interest in one anothers welfare is what I believe is too important to be unpoken, but I do not think that organised religion has a monopoly on this. It is often a refuge for hypocricy (I’ve been disappointed to witness this very often in my own life) and in some instances actual evil doing.
        I think you might agree on this point, as my reading of your own Chritian belief is that it is not in need of being organised into a church as such.
        Ultimately, it is not just religious faith I lack but faith in politics,philosophy and, yes, science to provide answers to la condition humaine.

        With all good wishes.


  3. Dear David,
    Knowing you through your language learning method and I share with your love of languages and religion. I always felt you are a decent man, someone who is thinks out of the box, but I think here in this blog you have missed the point with regard to Islam. Being a Muslim I was utterly disappointed of your assumptions. I never responded to such false accusation of Islam, the only reason I did because I feel some connection between us as languages lovers.

    1. Well, there we have it. You can have a lot of things like language loving in common with someone and still have opposing views when it comes to religion. That’s why some people try to keep religion entirely outside of civilised discussion, but I think it is too important for that. You have been promised a right of reply, and you have taken that right, but the way you took it, namely the “I’m disappointed in you because I thought you were a nice guy” tack, well, can you not see that this is simply not a valid debating point in response to the things I said?

      If what I said is true, and I think it is, then actually it’s very nice of me to take the trouble to tell you and warn you. So you need to be able to say why what I say is not true rather than engage in passive-aggressive bleating about language lovers and being disappointed in someone’s character.

  4. Putting logical facts to unreasonable individuals invariably is a waste of breath and time. How much more so is this the case when trying to use logic with very large groups of unreasonable people who have never been allowed, let alone encouraged, to think for themselves. A worthy effort Mr James, but I fear your words will fall on stony ground and that is such a pity.

  5. Peace, you should do more research about the beauty of Islam, that not nice how you are commenting about Islam. We will all be judge on the day of judgement for what we say and do, etc. The Creator Allaah Glorified Is He The Most High is the Ever Watchful, The All Seeing, The All Hearing, The Loving, The acceptor of Repentance. The One similar to none.

    Please read the Quran its the last and final Holy book that the Creator has sent down to mankind and jinn.

    Have you read the Quran yet?

    Islam is peace



    1. I have read a lot of it, not yet all, and not in Arabic. What I have read of it doesn’t in all honesty speak to me in the voice of God. I found it actually being used to the BIble really disappointing. Have you read the whole Bible yet, or at least the whole New Testament?

      I am aware that there are peaceful people who are Muslims, many I would say, and that they can also find texts to support that attitude of mind in the Quran. But the fact remains that Islam has not been a peaceable religion for most of its history. It has always been associated with violence and force, and I would even go so far to say that under its influence the reaction of European Christianity was to be far more political and aggressive than it might otherwise have been if we had not had Islam as neighbours.

      The ones in Islam who are being violent say that they are the faithful and that the peaceful Muslims are practically apostate. They say that they are more faithful to the example of Mohammed and that certainly seems to be true as being a man of war and spreading the deen by war started immediately – even within the lifetime of Muhammed. Maybe at the outset he was more peaceable and idealised and went sour or maybe it was just a phased advancement as he felt more confident to let out his true colours, but the later, abrogating verses such as the verse of the sword or the verses advocating the sexual subduing of female slaves – these all show a very different voice to the of our God especially when made flesh in Jesus Christ.

      I am ready to be judged for my comments on your religion, although in fact the only one who can forgive is Jesus Christ who was killed and rose again in order to do so, and He forgives regardless of works on our part. So if I have gone too far in my condemnation of Muhammed and identification of him as a false prophet, I will find out about this, but I really expect that the truth as I know it will become apparent to all.

      Please read the New Testament and let the true Lord Jesus speak to your heart.

Your thoughts welcome, by all mean reply also to other community members!