Worlds & Time

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I was very excited about getting Wildblue satellite internet back in the day. It meant being able to occasionally watch YouTube videos, for example.

Now I’m beginning to despise it. I’m writing this offline because once again my internet completely ceased working between one click and the next. It’s not a problem with the wireless router because that is registering as just fine (signal strength is “excellent”). However, there is no internet behind it. I click on a link, and instead of a fark comment thread I get “Server not found.”

This happens often. This Sunday, for instance, it was out all day long. A call to their service line was never returned.

I have repeatedly tried restarting all of the equipment involved, with little effect.

This is fucking torture. The internet is my lifeline. That’s how I communicate with everyone I know. It’s not like I can go see them or anything.

We’ve never had problems with our Dish Network like we have with Wildblue. You know how many problems that we’ve had with our TV connection? Less than ten (not counting the bizarre programming in their transceivers, that doesn’t count because it isn’t a connection problem). I’m listening to Sirius right now, actually. Dish works fine.

On a completely unrelated note, I was just thinking about the term jihad.

Jihad is a really interesting term to me, because the way I see it is completely different than I think the majority of Americans do.

I think that most people think that jihad means “holy war” and that isn’t right. I think a better definition would be “holy struggle.”

Rahma explained this to me more than a year ago, and this is how I understand it (obviously unable to look it up in wikipedia for the reasons above):

Jihad is the struggle of a Muslim to follow his faith. There are different parts to this struggle, but in order of importance, the internal struggle to act in a pious manner ranks before defending the Uma (the Muslim community) which is the only legitimate cause for violence in Islam unless you accept Hadith of which the isnad is possibly munkar.

Okay that probably didn’t make much sense. Let me try again. The most important part of jihad is acting piously. When you are walking down the street and Jessica Simpson walks by in hot pants, a pious Muslim man should avert his eyes. That struggle not to look at her is jihad.

When a Muslim man burns his finger on a stove, the struggle not to say, “Allah damn this infernal equipment” is jihad.

At eight a.m., after a night of heavy celebration (or studying for that big test), the struggle to get up and go to prayer is jihad.

That part of jihad is something that I respect because sometimes when I burn my fingers I have to struggle not to say “Jesus.” Not because I don’t want to take the Lord’s name in vain but because I keep reminding myself that in order for that curse to have any import, I would have to be a Christian, and I’m not and I would rather not have people think so. Instead I’m trying to remember to say “frack.”

So when is jihad the murder of Americans?

The community of Islam is called the Uma, and part of being a Muslim means protecting the Uma. You are allowed to kill people, if killing them protects the community of Muslims.

We (Americans) are occupying Saudi Arabia. At least partially through their invitation, but people like Osama Bin Laden aren’t very keen on that invited occupation because Saudi Arabia contains two of the three most important cities to Islam. Bin Laden thinks that by provoking America to senselessly invade Muslim countries that haven’t invited them he can convince Muslims to rise up and throw Americans out of their holy land.

This plan is working splendidly, thanks in large part to the moron that was elected to the Presidency in 2000.

Another thing: You know how the Bible is divided into the Old and New Testaments? There are two parts of the Islamic holy book: the Qur’an and the Hadith.

The miracle of Christianity is that Jesus rose from the dead. The miracle of Islam is that Mohammed (an ignorant herder) took dictation from God. I don’t read Arabic, but Muslims claim that the proof is in the pudding. Could Mohammed have produced the beautiful poetry of the Qur’an if it wasn’t divinely inspired? They claim that he couldn’t have.

I don’t believe that this is a miracle, but as far as “this miracle impresses me” this is somewhere between the “wow” of the Hindi milk miracle witnessed my millions and the “you mean someone moved the rotting corpse and you’re calling that a miracle?” of Easter.

Anyway, the Qur’an is the literal word of God. The Hadith are the collected sayings and actions of Mohammed, as passed down in verbal tradition through various people that met Mohammed during his lifetime.

As you can imagine, the Hadith are constantly argued about. They’re oral tradition first off, and second, some people are untrustworthy. Have you ever heard two people tell the same story, and the stories are recognizable but different? That’s the problem with the Hadith; they’re basically anecdotal.

There is a whole branch of study in Islam devoted to determining which Hadith came from reliable sources and were passed to people that repeated them without errors. I can’t remember what the name is, but the “path” of Hadith from person to person is called the isnad of that Hadith. If a Hadith didn’t originate from an actual experience with Mohammed, or if someone screwed it up during the centuries before it was written down, the isnad of that Hadith is said to be munkar.

So, to say again, many of the problems with the interpretation that killing Americans is a valid defense of the Uma, and therefore part of jihad is that it may be based on Hadith with isnads that are munkar. Bin Laden is just picking and choosing to fit his preconceived notions about killing Americans.

That’s why the majority of Muslims are not out to kill us. They realize that we are not converting the Saudi’s at the point of the gun, and they don’t need to kill us to defend the community.

However, more and more Muslims are looking at the war in Afganistan, the war in Iraq, and the continued occupation and support of the Saudi royal family, and they are saying to themselves “Maybe Bin Laden was right.”

That is my much simplified view of the Middle East situation, and about jihad and Hadith. I’d love to know if I’m basically correct by looking it up online, except I can’t look it up because I don’t have any internet access.


Update: Let’s see how I did. Wikipedia’s first definition of jihad is “struggle.” Although in law it is defined as military action, it has a common usage that is very similar to the way that I described it.

When I was talking about which is more important, the general idea that I was thinking of was the difference between “the greater jihad” and “the lesser jihad.” The article on jihad describes that difference.

Interestingly, I see some similarities between the five kinds of jihad listed in that section of the article and the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, except of course for the one involving military action. That has no corresponding guideline in Buddhism.

My memory of the definitions of Hadith, isnad, and munkar seem to have been fairly accurate as well. The term that I couldn’t remember about the study of Hadith seems to be Ilm ar-Rijal, but that doesn’t sound right to me. I also put the apostrophe in the correct place in Qur’an.

I did misspell “Ummah” as “Uma,” but I got the gist of the definition correct.

To be charitable to myself, we’ll pretend that I didn’t screw up the “reasons that Muslims can kill others” section too badly.

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