Tag Archives: Islam


God and Blasphemy

If I were as  powerful as  they claim,  I would not  need the  protection of  Rabbi, Priest  or Imam

God and Nonsense

Reverently burgled from I Am your God

God and Islam

Reverently burgled from I Am your God

Where Did My Morning Coffee Come From?

I wonder if the fanatical anti-Islamist Australian Senator Cory Bernardi, the nasty Dutch madman, Geert Wilders or the Muslim-hating Christopher Hitchens ever think about the origins of their morning cup of coffee?

There is an apocryphal tale which tells of an Arab named Khalid who was tending his goats in the Kaffa region of southern Ethiopia, when he noticed his animals became livelier after eating a certain berry. He boiled the berries to make the first coffee. This tale was first written in the 17th century so it is more likely that the Ethiopian ancestors of today’s Oromo people were the first to discover and recognize the energizing effect of the coffee bean plant.

The spread of coffee was started simultaneously with the spread of Islam. The first record of the drink is of beans exported from Ethiopia to Yemen where the Sufis drank it to stay awake all night to pray on special occasions.

Mocha or Mokha  is a port city on the Red Sea coast of Yemen and was the major coffee trading port. It has given its name to a favoured style of coffee.

By the late 15th century it had arrived in Mecca and Turkey from where it made its way to Venice. Venetian merchants introduced coffee-drinking to the wealthy in Venice, charging them heavily for the beverage.

Coffee became more widely accepted after controversy over whether it was acceptable for Catholics to consume was settled in its favour by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the drink. Indeed in 1674 an English “Women’s Petition Against Coffee” declared:

…the Excessive Use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE […] has […] Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age.

The first coffee shop, outside of the Ottoman Empire was opened in Venice in 1645.

Largely through the efforts of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company, coffee became available in England no later than the 16th century according to a 1583 account. A Turk named Pasqua Rosee, the servant of Daniel Edwards, a trader in Turkish goods, opened the first coffee house in Lombard Street in the City of London.

The Arabic qahwa became the Turkish kahve then the Italian caffé and then English coffee. The American “Java” seems to go back to the original Arabic.

So, Cory Bernardi, your morning coffee is a Muslim invention.

It’s Not Religion


To balance the apparent recent anti-Catholic leanings of the archive, here is a comment on the other two major desert religions.

Thanks for pointing me in the direction of “atheist cartoons”, Mike.

Sunday Morning Live; The Chasers

The archive’s Sunday entertainment spot

Or Saturday Night Live if you live in the Western Hemisphere

Religion can be a dangerous topic in comedy.

This may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I’m quite sure everyone will find at least one laugh here.

Is Turkey Changing Islam?

I have not written on Islam for some time. There seemed to be little change happening.

Suddenly, today, a news item on the BBC Online News changes everything.

Turkey has been in the news for moving back towards allowing women to wear head scarves in educational institutions and I admit I have been taking a “Oh Dear, the Imams are taking back their authority!” That seems to be the case, but in an unexpected manner.

I have rearranged some of the points in the published article but this is essentially what was contained within that report.

From the BBC;

Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam – and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion. The country’s powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran.

The Hadith is a collection of thousands of sayings reputed to come from the Prophet Muhammad. As such, it is the principal guide for Muslims in interpreting the Koran and the source of the vast majority of Islamic law, or Sharia.

But the Turkish state has come to see the Hadith as having an often negative influence on a society it is in a hurry to modernise, and believes it responsible for obscuring the original values of Islam. It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad, and even some that were need now to be reinterpreted.


Commentators say the very theology of Islam is being reinterpreted in order to effect a radical renewal of the religion. Its supporters say the spirit of logic and reason inherent in Islam at its foundation 1,400 years ago are being rediscovered. Some believe it could represent the beginning of a reformation in the religion.

Prof Mehmet Gormez an Hadith expert with the Department of Religious Affairs said that, “Some messages ban women from travelling without their husband’s permission… But this isn’t a religious ban. It came about because it simply wasn’t safe for a woman to travel alone

Turkish officials have been reticent about the revision of the Hadith until now, aware of the controversy it is likely to cause among traditionalist Muslims, but they have spoken to the BBC about the project, and their ambitious aims for it. The forensic examination of the Hadiths has taken place in Ankara University’s School of Theology.

An adviser to the project, Felix Koerner, says some of the sayings – also known individually as “hadiths” – can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society. “Unfortunately you can even justify through alleged hadiths, the Muslim – or pseudo-Muslim – practice of female genital mutilation,” he says. “You can find messages which say ‘that is what the Prophet ordered us to do’. But you can show historically how they came into being, as influences from other cultures, that were then projected onto Islamic tradition.”

The argument is that Islamic tradition has been gradually hijacked by various – often conservative – cultures, seeking to use the religion for various forms of social control. Leaders of the Hadith project say successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad himself.


Turkey is intent on sweeping away that “cultural baggage” and returning to a form of Islam it claims accords with its original values and those of the Prophet.

But this is where the revolutionary nature of the work becomes apparent. Even some sayings accepted as being genuinely spoken by Muhammad have been altered and reinterpreted. Prof Mehmet Gormez, a senior official in the Department of Religious Affairs and an expert on the Hadith, gives a telling example. “There are some messages that ban women from travelling for three days or more without their husband’s permission and they are genuine. “But this isn’t a religious ban. It came about because in the Prophet’s time it simply wasn’t safe for a woman to travel alone like that. But as time has passed, people have made permanent what was only supposed to be a temporary ban for safety reasons.” Prof Gormez points out that in another speech, the Prophet said “he longed for the day when a woman might travel long distances alone”. So, he argues, it is clear what the Prophet’s goal was. Yet, until now, the ban has remained in the text, and helps to restrict the free movement of some Muslim women to this day.

The project justifies such bold interference in the 1,400-year-old content of the Hadith by rigorous academic research.

Original spirit

As part of its aggressive programme of renewal, Turkey has given theological training to 450 women, and appointed them as senior imams called “vaizes”. They have been given the task of explaining the original spirit of Islam to remote communities in Turkey’s vast interior.

One of the vaises, Hulya Koc, looked out over a sea of headscarves at a town meeting in central Turkey and told the women of the equality, justice and human rights guaranteed by an accurate interpretation of the Koran – one guided and confirmed by the revised Hadith. “There’s also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment… This does not exist in Islam… we have to explain that to them.” she said.

She says that, at the moment, Islam is being widely used to justify the violent suppression of women. “There are honour killings,” she explains. “We hear that some women are being killed when they marry the wrong person or run away with someone they love. “There’s also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment by uncles and others. This does not exist in Islam… we have to explain that to them.”

‘New Islam’

According to Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey from Chatham House in London, Turkey is doing nothing less than recreating Islam – changing it from a religion whose rules must be obeyed, to one designed to serve the needs of people in a modern secular democracy. He says that to achieve it, the state is fashioning a new Islam. “This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation,” he says. “Not exactly the same, but if you think, it’s changing the theological foundations of [the] religion. ”

Fadi Hakura believes that until now secularist Turkey has been intent on creating a new politics for Islam. Now, he says, “they are trying to fashion a new Islam.” Significantly, the “Ankara School” of theologians working on the new Hadith have been using Western critical techniques and philosophy.

They have also taken an even bolder step – rejecting a long-established rule of Muslim scholars that later (and often more conservative) texts override earlier ones. “You have to see them as a whole,” says Fadi Hakura. “You can’t say, for example, that the verses of violence override the verses of peace. This is used a lot in the Middle East, this kind of ideology.

“I cannot impress enough how fundamental [this change] is.”

I keep thinking of the effects of the Reformation on Christian populations in past centuries!

As an addendum, there was an article in the Washington Post in July 2006 about the beginnings of this matter.