Saturday, 29 March 2008

Entertain yourself with this thought

in the middle ages, long long time ago, suppose you were a woman, who was born and raised as a christian, read the bible, loves Jesus, goes to church every sunday and before she got married, her father sat with her and told her, you are not a christian, you are a jew, we didnt tell you when you were a child because you would not keep a secret, we are secret jews, we were the new christians i.e the newly converted, back then women were not allowed to read Hebrew, men were only allowed to learn and attend the synogogue, and today you will be marrying a secret jew.

after marriage, she no longer allowed to the church, she can't really understand her new faith. what do you think happened to her belief system???
if you were her, what would you do?

PS: questions are based on The Coffee Trader by David Liss.


kinzi said...

WOW! I'm wondering what is the catch, but will have a go.

If she loves Jesus, it doesn't change her belief system, but where she fits in it. She'll have to deal with the lies and betrayal of her parents, but that is where Jesus comes in and does His thing of comfort and proving Himself able to strengthen her. Then, women didnt' have the right to choose like we do now and lived in less-than-lovely marriages.

I'm a Christian, but didn't become one until I was already married to someone w/o faith. They were rocky years, but at every point Jesus met me and gave me hope to hang in there. Then, the guy divorced me and I was free to marry who I wanted to.

So what was the catch? :)

Jasim said...

That makes you go hmmm. :D

Well if I were here, I'd stay on my religion regardless of what it is.

Because religion based on belief, internal one. It's something we want to do practice and to believe in, and most importantly, to belong to. Not adopting a religion that is forced upon us.

Devil's Mind said...

Intriguing!! So she believed in Jesus because her parents told her he was true, and now they come and tell her that telling her to believe in Jesus was just a scam!!

Well, if she bases her beliefs on her parents' beliefs she'd have to go with Judaism.

If she bases her beliefs on the child's will to believe, she'd go with Christianity.

But the best case scenario, is that she has independent thought, and she can see beyond Christianity\Judaism as options!

Ammar said...

I think there are two points here, the story is told in a historical context, in the time of the inquisition, portugsese and spanish jews and muslims either converted to catholasism or fled, so both the issues of Identity and Tolerence are at hand, secret jews were secret because it wasn't allowed for them to practice freely, the identity part is the fascinating one, how do you act if you find out you're not who you think you are? the story takes its course, but it keeps one wondering about the issue of identity.

Tala said...

Kinzi, Jasim, DM and Ammar, Thanks for sharing your thoughts, all of what you wrote guys is true, here is how i saw it and im still thinking about an approach so help me break its elements

Kinzi, in the novel and after getting married, she starts facing the problem of why should she accept certain rules that were not in her earlier faith assuming she accepted to become a secret jew, such as dressing in that era, cooking Kosher and not being allowed to learn the language and prayers, how jews dealt with the christian communities they were among in business and so on, that history part is amazing, she asks her husband to teach her the language and he refuses on religious bases so she starts going back to her older practice visiting the church behind his back, dressing like she always did in the outer town and feeling a guilt towards her family and him, you can say she was a believer despite the reality she was put in. the question is if her husband explained Judaism properly would she have taken it and given that she had a choice to take it or refuse it? this is where im stuck.

Jasim, yes no one can be forced into a belief. a belief is a very integral part of the identity and it has a context that should never be excluded or stripped out from, religion doesnt come alone, its related to place, time, social conditions and environment.

DM, could you have a child's will belief from a second faith point of view? ya3ni, if she adopted Judaism after study, would it ever be as absolute as it was in Christianity? hence define faith from a second point of view.

Ammar, absolutely, this is what i was aiming at from this post, i cannot understand religion if didnt understand the historical context it was in and here comes the most important realisation of all faiths which came at a later stage in all religions, the importance of tolerance.

concerning the part related to identity Ammar, lets fast forward to our days, if this happened to me today, what is the case that i would not take this breaking news as shocking, my only answer would be; if i already knew what Judaism is, i wouldnt feel that i missed out on a life founding block to a case of 0 or 1 rather than fractions away from (my truth). thats why if someone came to challenge me with my history and tried to shock the pillars of my system, i would not totally collapse, thats why i believe i need to study other religions thoroughly so i know im a true believer.

Ammar said...

Yes its quite a mind teazer, but no matter how thorough you are in understanding other religions, your whole system will be shaken if you find out you actually belong to another faith, it doesn't have anything to do with the idea of the "right faith vs. the wrong faith" in the theological sense, because as we both agreed there are always historical contexts, and those contexts tend to form impressions about people, "us vs them", in the social aspect of societies, people identify themselves as part of a larger community, and it's quite an identity shock in the "social" meaning when you find out that you're one of "them" rathar than one of "us".

does that make sense??

Tala said...

Ammar, yeah it does make sense, actually few people would carry the religious debate beyond social borders since these practices are what we are confronted with everyday, i think its the religious institutes job to dissolve these barriers of "us Vs them" with some initiative from people to get over themselves and not ghettoise communities based on religions and sects, can you see a praying place for all three religions together or a universal prayer?! am i so much dreaming?!

Tala said...

i just re read what i wrote, i didnt mean by a universal prayer, a universal belief , i would controlling people's choice this way.. im clueless

Ammar said...

Well that's a bit tricky since the whole idea of tolerence revolves around the thought of freedem, so a universal belief would have to constrict people's choices.

Now regarding the religious institutions desolving the bariers that's always a great thing, but barriers can't be desolved to the point of merging into one, faiths have differences, and those differences are sometimes causes for conflict, as well as them being the corner stones of the faith itself, so they can't be overlooked, but there are always points of departure, the shared monotheistic tradition is the most important, but again one can't escape contexts, religions are ideologies, and ideologies interact with societies, ethnically, socially and politically, with all the baggage that comes with it, us vs. them is a human attribute, we can't all be us, because that's not human, and humans aren't "one" anything in any way.

The Observer said...

I dont think that her whole belief system would fail because her parents just told her otherwise. They have planted a faith in her since childhood which wouldn't fall apart in a single night, but it might open her eyes of a crack in her belief system that she may decide to just close it again and stay in the dark or work of expanding it and checking her horizon.

btw, wesel salamek :)

Tala said...

religions are ideologies, and ideologies interact with societies, ethnically, socially and politically, with all the baggage that comes with it, us vs. them is a human attribute, we can't all be us, because that's not human, and humans aren't "one" anything in any way.

so why does each religion strive to make all us? is it the religion or the people? (ps: i didnt answer those yet and the second question is a very tricky one too)

Tala said...

Fadi :D what a small world, you never mentioned in your posts you had such a nice brother! btw, he speaks like you write =P observerism runs in the family ya Fadi

well, it doesn't collapse her system but it shakes it without knowing the consequences, its highly subjective at this mature age, as you said, she needs to make a decision, to question her faith in a new light and go through doubting what was once an absolute truth; to find out whether her faith was right in the first place, or that her faith was wrong, i dont know how she will decide its wrong or deal with all the past years and cope with adopting new faith, or close the door and walk the path she is given, i.e take the result from the mouth of others.

i think as humans, we might read all the books of this earth, but enlightment comes in moments, life changing moments. how, when and through whom and how it makes its way into you, its beyond me.

Ammar said...

3al 3afieh lol,

Well, mazboot all religions seeks for everyone to be "us" but that's only more proof of the human atrribute of pluraliam. all religions say "We" are the righteous, and "They" are the sinful, so their quest for global "us-ness" is based on the belief in the inveitability of their victory in the end of days, so they seek the spread of their righteousness in a prophetic nature that predicts their dominence. that's the religious part.

The human part is based on much of the religious part but also includes human influences, All religions recognize the existance of "them", but they also claim their Monopoly of the ultimate truth, others are sought to be converted by hook or by crook to become part of "us" because "we" want them to be on the right side, when in fact all conversion conquests throughout history caused death and destitution for the converted people, especially those among them who refused to convert.

Monopoly and Manipulation are very close phonetically, they also go very well togather in practice!

Tala said...

Ammar Thanks :D

it makes sense now, i was looking up religious pluralism (it is the keyword to this problem really) and its sociological effects on the long run, so i can say with small confidence thats its mostly the human attribute outweighting what a religion really aims at.

here are some nice thoughts i found:

What is the relationship between religious pluralism and religious vitality? earlier thoughts say that pluralism undermines vitality of faith, more recent ones in developed open cultures, claim that pluralism pushes people to hold on more and be religiously active.

i think Arab nations recently got introduced to other faiths thats why in these decades we are to witness a decline in faith, because young pluralism is seen as the cause and consequence of the breakdown of moral integration. where multiple groups compete, each discredits the other and encourages the view that each is open to question, despute and doubt, and people become cast adrift in the sea of moral uncertainty which produces all manner of social pathologies..

my say is that religions/ religious institutes cant sheild its people for long, they will have to be exposed to diversity no matter what.

it is seen in pluralistic countries that people are religious, inspite of and not because of pluralism. dont know how true, but i need to read more, i kind of still pro negative.

i just stumbled on John Hick's plurarlistic Hypothesis, i will see where it puts me at after i finish it

thanks Ammar

The Observer said...

hehehe, we r a family of observers! lol

Ammar said...

Bravo on Hicks, but I actually beg to differ on the thought that arabs were recently introduced to other faiths, historically the land where Arabs lived was the most religiously plural in the old world, take Andalusia for example, that society was very pluralistic both religiously and ethnically, muslims, christians and jews formed the society and influenced the civilization each in their religious tradition, one of the greatest philosophers of Cordoba was Ibn Maimoun, Maimonedes in latin, and he was a promenant philosopher who wrote in Arabic and Hebrew.

But more interestingly, Islamic Sufism in Andalusia was greatly influenced by the spirit of religious pluralism, Ibn Arabi, who also lived in Andalusia, is famous for his chant in Arabic "I follow the religion of Love" أدين بدين الحب in which he mentions symbols of all faiths to express the oneness of those in the form of Love.

check this link:

inspite the exlusivity of each faith in its doctrine of ultimate truth, you could find examples of co-existance throughout history, people can always find commonalities between them, they can also find differences, and they have the choice to build their relationships on either, tolerence had great examples, in the land of the Arabs even before Europe, but history is round like the earth, not seeing the other side doesn't mean it doesn't exist!

Devil's Mind said...

"DM, could you have a child's will belief from a second faith point of view? ya3ni, if she adopted Judaism after study, would it ever be as absolute as it was in Christianity? hence define faith from a second point of view."

I think here we have a lapse of definitions. What does "absolute" faith mean?! Is studying a child's will?! And are faith and belief synonymous?!

Faith requires blind belief... But if you study (or simply, think deeply about) something, and base your beliefs on critical thinking, then there is a shift from blind belief (faith) to enlightened belief (understanding)!

I am still not sure what you mean by "absolute" and how it might fit in this line of thought!

Anonymous said...

Tagged again :D It's khouloud btw

Tala said...


sorry i have been away, still amazed at the doors you're opening, i read on early Islamic Philosophy, Islamic-Judeo Philosophy, Islamic Studies on Greek Philosophy, Sufism and monotheistic cross studies, all were discussed in the 9-12 century and how some of their works were not introduced to Europeans in translations till the 16 hundreds and from their europa boomed and i look at the fields early Arab philosophers and scientists established and i wanted to cry because they didnt teach us at schools a single book of those rather than just mentioning it in arabic class. what happened to our education past the 13th century?

i was inconsistent in my words when i said Arab Nations are newly introduced to faiths, the word is not faiths, its understanding/coping with open cultures, not in the manner we live but how we think which begs the question, what are we as a nation intellectually? do you get what im saying? as in what is the datum for our thoughts today, we only can refrain to religion, we dont have anything else that is rigid and yet it is misinterpreted because today it is taught out of context. politics, economy, education are all adapted systems and self insufficient.

Tala said...


what do i mean by absolute:

a religion according to Hick embodies a perception for a noumenal reality, which is ontologically "real" and epistemically unknowable, and is the ultimate metaphysical referent for the various phenomenal responses, culturally and humanly
this reality is one. but the human response to it varied over the historical and cultural circumstances with religions and i would add science too.

when a human adopts a doctrine of faith to resemble his perception of this divine reality - which is one for all - it becomes his absolute.

how much is it subject to being altered, if you live into one without questioning, then its static. but does that make us all blind believers? i dont think so. believing is measured by your true acceptance to the doctrine itself it is simply the explaination you adopt for the reality of all this.
in absolute terms, its partially right. according to all, Jesus is coming back. so we cant be fully right about it. there is a room to strive for the ultimate truth.

Ammar said...

Good Morning,
Ok this is actually very interesting, you seem to be very knowledgeable at this matter, civilization and culture I mean, which happen to be one, or two of my most favourite mind trips.

Now, to answer your query on why we weren't introduced to these books when we were in school, that’s simply because our teaching systems are not really based on "knowledge", but rather on islands of information that actually all lead to “nation-centric” education, history is taught according to each Arab country’s view, and that’s also the case with all humanities, the study of philosophy isn’t even allowed in some Arab countries, it’s deemed as heresy, not because it questions what some believe shouldn’t be questioned but because of the complete chronic ignorance of the virtues of those sciences and the people who mastered them a thousand years ago.

I probably misunderstood your thought earlier but I got you now, "What is the datum for our thoughts today"

Again our current “dark ages” have contexts, we’ve been forced into darkness for 500 years and the only light to our ancestors was faith, people couldn’t read and write but they knew how to pray, this affected the notion of “civilization” to the extent of it becoming religion only, no other “human” imprint was left to be taught or learned, so now we simply live on borrowed knowledge, borrowed economies, borrowed education, and in normal circumstances that’s called human interaction, which was the case again a thousand years ago when Europe lived on borrowed knowledge, borrowed education and borrowed life styles, but they borrowed it and made their own, we didn’t. And probably won’t ever.

Despite the darkness of this diagnosis I think the sanity that hangs by the thread here is that those books you’re talking about are easier to get hold of now more than ever, so it might be an individual effort to educate one’s self and preach, that’s how all great ideas started.

Tala said...

actually i dont know much, i was following your threads backing it with a reality that needs to be explained and given that we have a problem that needs diagnosis and solution, we are doing well so far :D

you know what would be really cool to do, is that if arabic publishing houses re-prints the whole series of all ancient philosophers and scientists in its original arabic scripts and make it available at reasonable prices to all, in addition to publishing the pure sciences scripts by scientists, whether in arabic or in translations from Greek Japanese Korean etc, what is in english is fine, we are never taught sciences in its raw form, which explains why we lack foundation. we get scholars editing the books in islands and we are experiencing the outcomes, and i think this is what governments should invest in. BOOKS BOOKS AND BOOKS.

we need the information so we get a proper sequential knowledge, it will take us time but i guess this is the most proper way to start. and its never too late.

bambam said...

so now we simply live on borrowed knowledge, borrowed economies, borrowed education, and in normal circumstances that’s called human interaction, which was the case again a thousand years ago when Europe lived on borrowed knowledge, borrowed education and borrowed life styles, but they borrowed it and made their own, we didn’t. And probably won’t ever.

you know what would be really cool to do, is that if arabic publishing houses re-prints the whole series of all ancient philosophers and scientists in its original arabic scripts and make it available at reasonable prices to all

hmm just an injunction here for a bit. the original books of the most progressive and prominent scholars in the golden age of the islamic empire were mostly burned and destroyed and all that is left is mostly the translations of those into hebrew and latin...
for example ibn rushd (avoroes) and razi, due to charges of heresy...
for instance ibn rushd is single handedly responsible for reviving Aristotelian and platonic philosophy and had a great influence on european thinkers for 4 centuries from the 12th till the 16th century... while this knowledge was shunned in the muslim world.

so the problem is rooted deeper than just ramification of nationalistic ideologies. its an innate and boxed way of thinking, and the practice of study of philosophy has been shunned since al ghazali... so you have to look at a deeper and more primal source of the problem than saying its happenstance of cycles and times.
it helps to study the status of the culture and society and legislation of the golden age to realize the reason.

thank you guys i thoroughly enjoyed the reading, and ammar although i never checked ur blog before i'll be sure to read up on it now. you have impressed me quite a bit.

as for tala.
i think for the case of the lady the assumption here is that her parents were following a system of dualism just like the times dictated, but one thing of note is while doing that they would direct the child subtly... especially in terms of explaining the scripture since the old testament doesnt exhibit a huge departure from the talmud or torah in terms of legislation. so in that manner there isn't that huge of a conflict and with the gentle will bending of the parents it should be pretty simple to come to reality with. and i don't think the saphardi would have remained an influential sect if that wasn't the general case.

Ammar said...

Lol ok! well then I'm flattered, because you seemed to be very informed about the topic!

I have to refer to Bambam's comment about the lost original transcripts of the enlightened scholars we're discussing, Ibn Rushed or Averroes had his works torched and would've been lost forever if it wasn't for the translations to latin done earlier, the same goes to almost all the scholars, so the porblem isn't interest as much as it is the lack of the actual original versions, the translation from latin to Arabic again has been done over the years and usually translations water down the content, so imagine how many times the works were translated from the "now original" latin, which practically confirms that the original work was lost.

Bambam, I totally agree with what you said, and I also have to say that I've never visited your blog but I will make sure I check it out, thanks for the compliment.

Tala said...


glad you enjoyed it, well true, the major two destruction of books were at the House of Wisdom, Bagdad in 1258 by Mongols and in 1492 in Granada Square, Spain by the Crusades and after Ghazali, only theology teachings were allowed but science studies were halted and philosophy was banned, while Jews kept their share and progressed with philosophy up to this century. they still have Ibn Rushd's work on Astronomy and other fields and some were completely lost. why not start translating their libraries?

what we can at least confirm is that Muslim scholars and Jewish Scholars had open faiths studies and were open to the questions of philosophy because both were seeking the ultimate truth and understanding, the source of knowledge didn't matter as long that it takes them a step closer to the truth, the persuit of science doesnt contradict religion. they are the ones that inspired later Christian Scholars such as Aquinas and Magnus. if we want to teach people to think, we teach them philosophy, they even had studies on which commandments are to be literally followed and which dont and its quite amazing. when you have a scientist, that studied philosophy to explain religion, you absolutely win because someone who understand complex language doesnt make him a good preacher.

but are there any regulations now that ban philosophy studies? what from these books is currently available in our libraries and who are the publishing houses who translated and published them and whether they available for sale, what faculties in colleges teach them? i think i would like to check whats in Jordan University Library or visit the History Department there.

About the Lady in the story, hmmm, i think she shouldnt take it because her parents said so. she needs to believe. to be convinced to start with.