Category Archives: Arabic

The Paravars: Chapter 9 – Seeking Help from the Portuguese


Myself

 By T. V. Antony Raj Fernando

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Previous: The Paravars: Chapter 8 – Arrival of the Portuguese in India

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Afonso de Albuquerque (1453 – 1515), Captain-Major of the Seas of Arabia, second governor of Portuguese India, First Duke of Goa. (Source – Palácio do Correio Velho)

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In 1509, Afonso de Albuquerque was appointed the second governor of the Portuguese possessions in the East. In 1510, he defeated the Bijapur sultans with the help of Timayya, on behalf of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire, leading to the establishment of a permanent settlement in Velha Goa (or Old Goa). From then on, the Southern Province, also known simply as Goa, became the headquarters of Portuguese India, and the seat of the Portuguese Viceroy who governed the Portuguese possessions in Asia.

A new fleet under Marshal Fernão Coutinho arrived with specific instructions to destroy the power of the Zamorin of Calicut. The Portuguese captured Zamorin’s palace and destroyed it and set the city on fire. Zamorin’s forces rallied to kill Coutinho and wound Albuquerque.

In 1513, the wounded Albuquerque relented and entered into a treaty with the Zamorin of Calicut to protect Portuguese interests in Malabar. The Zamorin and the Portuguese signed a treaty giving the Portuguese the right to trade as “they pleased“.

At this point in history, one of those curious figures,  unimportant in themselves,  by whom at a given point the course of history would be changed stepped on to the stage.

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Dom João da Cruz

In 1513, as part of the treaty, the Zamorin sent a fifteen-year-old young Chetti as his agent to the court of King Manuel in Lisbon. Some writers claim that this youngster was a Nair and a relative of the Zamorin. The young man spent three years (1513-1516) in Lisbon and learned to read and write Portuguese. He became popular with King Manuel. and he got baptised with the name Dom João da Cruz. On March 12, 1515, he was knighted, made a fidalgo (a noble), and along with the title of nobility received the habit of the Order of Christ and a life grant that went with it.

Sometime between 1515 and 1518, hostilities were renewed when the Portuguese attempted to assassinate the Zamorin.

João da Cruz returned to Calicut from Lisbon in 1516. The Zamorin dismissed him from his service as he had changed religion and appropriated some properties of da Cruz.

At that time, private trade was thriving in the Portuguese settlements. To earn his livelihood by trading, da Cruz obtained a loan of 7400 pardaos from the Portuguese feitoria of Calicut. Since he occupied a privileged position as a knight of the Order of Christ, he received the necessary licences to export pepper and ginger to Portugal for three years till the Portuguese crown officially monopolized spice trade in 1520.

In 1521, the ship carrying his cargo drowned and he was unable to repay his loans.

In 1525, the Portuguese crown gave João da Cruz permission to send 100 quintals of pepper and 30 quintals of ginger to Cambay.

From 1516 until this time the Zamorin had extracted 35,000 pardaos from  João da Cruz for becoming a Christian in Portugal.

João da Cruz shifted his residence from Calicut to Cochin probably against the background of the strained relationship between the Portuguese and the Zamorin. In Cochin, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Portuguese for not having paid back the loan, which then came about 4000 pardaos.

However still hopeful he placed certain requests before the Portuguese crown that would safeguard his entrepreneurial activities, and which would ultimately help him to improve his financial position. In one of his letters, he expresses a variety of desires:

  1. The post of captain and factor of Quilon, which, if conferred upon him, would enable him to prevent pepper-smuggling to Vijayanagara kingdom;
  2. The monopoly right of selling horses to Rey Grande (king of Cape Comorin), to the king of Travancore, to the kingdom of Tumbichchi Nayak and to the kingdom of Vettumperumal who resided in Kayattar and the neighbouring principalities which were involved in wars with Vijayanagara and Bijapur;
  3. The office for collecting the tribute of the Pearl Fishery Coast which was lying in the territory of Rey Grande (king of Cape Comorin).

The Portuguese crown granted João da Cruz only his second request.

In the first quarter of the 16th century, the Paravars of the Pearl Fishery Coast paid a small tax to the state for permission to scour the deep for pearls. This contribution which was paid to the Pandya kings till then came to be shared by the two powers between whom the coast was divided namely King Chera Udaya Martanda, the king of Travancore who annexed the southern half of the coastal territory and the Vanga Tumbichi Nayak, who possessed himself to the north.

In the first half of the sixteenth century, the Paravas had to contend with the demands of a variety of rulers. Both the Chera and the Pandiya kings were not far away. The king of Vijayanagar still claimed a rather shadowy sovereignty as far as Cape Comorin, though effective power was exercised by Visvanatha Nayakar, who from the city of Madurai claimed dominion over the northern villages of the Paravas. A new crisis appeared on an already complicated scene with the arrival of a race of Moors (Arabs) who made the ancient port of Korkai their headquarters. These Moors who had considerable experience in pearl-fishing started monopolising the traditional pearl harvesting trade of the Paravars. They converted many Paravars to Islam and married Paravar women.

In 1516, the tax dues for the Pearl Fishery were farmed out by a Muslim who became the virtual master of the coast. This personage must have been a descendant of Takiuddin Abdur Rahman (See The Paravars: Chapter 5 – The Pre-Muhammadan Period). Duarte Barbosa, a Portuguese factor at Cochin in the early sixteenth century mentions in Volume II of his book “The Book of Duarte Barbosa“:

A wealthy and distinguished Moor has long held the farm of the duties levied on seed-pearls. He is so rich and powerful that all the people of the land honour him. as much as the King. He executes judgment and justice on the Moors without interference from the King.

The fishers for seed-pearl (the Hindu Paravars) fish all the week for themselves save on Friday when they work for the owner of the boat, and at the end of the season, they fish for a whole week for this Moor, whereby he possesses a great abundance of seed-pearl.

The Portuguese managed to wrest out a share of the profits by way of a tribute from the local kings against threats of attack.

In 1523, Joao Froles, appointed as the first captain and Factor of the  Pearl Fishery Coast was sent to Tuticorin to take control of the area. All dwellers on the Pearl Fishery Coast became aware of the new power that had emerged in their midst.

Joao Froles succeeded in farming out 1,500 cruzados as the tax dues for the Pearl Fishery for a year. The Muslims who couldn’t farm out that much retaliated by attacking the poor Paravars. In consequence, the Portuguese had to maintain a flying squadron to ward off the attacks of the Muslims.

From 1527, the Hindu Paravars were being threatened by the privateers of the Zamorin of Calicut aided by the offshore Arab fleets, the local Tamil Muslim Paravars, and by the Rajah of Madurai who wanted to wrest control of Tirunelveli and the Pearl Fishery Coast from the hands of the Rajah of Travancore. In due course, the Rajas themselves joined the Moors, anticipating great advantages from the pearl trade which they Moors carried on, and from their power at sea.

In 1528, following a defeat of the Moors by the Portuguese, retribution had to be paid to the Portuguese. The Muslims coerced the Hindu Paravas to pay additional tributes during the pearl fisheries. Soon the oppressed Hindu Paravars were reduced to virtual slavery, and for the first time in history, the Paravars lost their right over the pearl fishery.

In 1532, during a pearl fishery near Tuticorin, a Muslim man taunted a Parava woman selling homemade savouries. She went home immediately and told her husband of what happened. The enraged husband accosted the Muslim. During the ensuing brawl, the Muslim cut off an earlobe of the Parava who wore large ornaments on his ears.

This incident provoked the Paravars who felt that the honour of the entire Parava community compromised. After some days of secret plotting, the Paravars without warning attacked the Muslim quarters of Tuticorin. The rest took off from the city for their lives and committed themselves to their little boats. These events sparked off a civil war between the Paravars and the Muslims.

According to a report dated December 19, 1669, written by Van Reede and Laurens Pyh, respectively Commandant of the coast of Malabar and Canara and senior merchant and Chief of the sea-ports of Madura:

“they (the Paravars) fell upon the Moors, and killed some thousands of them, burnt their vessels, and remained masters of the country, though much in fear that the Moors, joined by the pirates of Calicut, would rise against them in revenge.”

The revenge of the Muslims was terrible. The Muslims of the neighbouring towns joined the fracas. The rich and mighty Muslims then swore to exterminate the Hindu Paravars. They collected an army, made an alliance with all the petty rulers of the neighbouring areas who were dependent on the Viceroy of Madura, and advanced against Tuticorin by land and sea. The Nayaks of Vembar and Vaipar, far from joining this confederacy with the Muslims, defended the Paravar territories.

The Muslims offered a bounty of five panams per Paravar head to the mercenaries most of whom belonged to the Maravar caste.

The gold coin called panam was of light 15-carat gold. It was the main monetary medium used for exchanges in Calicut, Cannanore and Cochin, where 19 panams formed one Portuguese cruzado.

The Paravars of Tuticorin and its vicinity were pitilessly massacred on this occasion. The persecution lasted for some considerable time. As the heads of Paravars piled up, the bounty paid to the mercenaries was reduced to one panam.

The Hindu Paravas had nowhere to go and were in a dire situation with no hope for the future. Some writers feel that a little exaggeration can be seen in these accounts since the Muslims who had the pearl fisheries under their control needed the Hindu Paravars to eventually go out to sea and continue with their occupation and pay them the taxes for harvesting pearl oysters.

The Hindu Paravars were much in fear that the Moor pirates of Calicut might help the local Paravar Muslims to take revenge on them. In this situation, the Paravars thought of the Portuguese, the new power that had mushroomed amidst them, and seek their protection.

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Next: The Paravars: Chapter 10 – Conversion to Catholicism

Previous: The Paravars: Chapter 8 – Arrival of the Portuguese in India

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Triple Talaq


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Quran 2-229 in Arabic

In Islam marriage is considered as an extremely desirable institution, hence its conception of marriage as the rule of life, and divorce only as an exception to that rule. According to a Hadith, Prophet Muhammad said, “Marriage is one of my Sunnah (way). One who does not follow it does not belong to me.” (Ibn Majah, Sunan, Kitab an-Nikah.)

The disintegration of a family has an injurious effect on the society. If the family no longer exists, the whole of humanity suffers.

Nature demands that men and women lead their lives together. According to the Sharia, or Islamic religious law which forms a part of the Islamic tradition, the ideal way of leading such a life is within the bonds of marriage.

In Islam, marriage is both a highly sacred bond to which great religious and social importance is attached and a civil contract entered into by mutual consent of the bride and groom.

The state of marriage lays the foundations for family life. Once a man and a woman are tied together in the bonds of matrimony, they are expected to do their utmost, till the day they die to honour and uphold what the Qur’an (4:20-21) calls their firm contract, or pledge.

وَإِنْ أَرَدتُّمُ اسْتِبْدَالَ زَوْجٍ مَّكَانَ زَوْجٍ وَآتَيْتُمْ إِحْدَاهُنَّ قِنطَارًا فَلَا تَأْخُذُوا مِنْهُ شَيْئًا ۚ أَتَأْخُذُونَهُ بُهْتَانًا وَإِثْمًا مُّبِينًا – 4:20
But if you want to replace one wife with another and you have given one of them a great amount [in gifts], do not take [back] from it anything. Would you take it in injustice and manifest sin?

وَكَيْفَ تَأْخُذُونَهُ وَقَدْ أَفْضَىٰ بَعْضُكُمْ إِلَىٰ بَعْضٍ وَأَخَذْنَ مِنكُم مِّيثَاقًا غَلِيظًا – 4:21
And how could you take it while you have gone in unto each other and they have taken from you a solemn covenant?

To this end, the full thrust of the Sharia Law is levelled at preventing the occurrence of divorce and exists primarily, as checks and not incentives.

All men and women are by nature quite different from each other, biologically. It is an accepted fact that everyone, man or woman, has strengths and weaknesses. This is equally true of husbands and wives. So, when a man and a woman are enjoined to live together as husband and wife, naturally they would have their differences.

Unity can be achieved only through patience and tolerance. According to Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet said, “No believing man should bear any grudge against a believing woman. If one of her ways is not to his liking, there must be many things about her that would please him. “ (Muslim, Sahih, Kitab ar-Rada’, 2/1091)

So, in a marriage, each partner should consciously recognize the plus points of the other and ignore the minus points. Nevertheless, in a few cases, unpleasantness crops up gradually increasing the friction between a husband and his wife preventing them from arriving at a just settlement of their differences reaching a stage of desperation that they become intent on divorce.

In such a situation, the Sharia Law gives them guidance by prescribing a specific method for separation.

The Qur’an (2:229) expresses it thus:

الطَّلَاقُ مَرَّتَانِ ۖ فَإِمْسَاكٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَانٍ ۗ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَن تَأْخُذُوا مِمَّا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شَيْئًا إِلَّا أَن يَخَافَا أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ ۖ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا ۚ وَمَن يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ – 2:229
“Divorce may be pronounced twice, then a woman must be retained in honour or allowed to go with kindness.” (Qur’an, 2:229)

From this verse, we understand that once a man gives notice of divorce to his wife (not menstruating at that time) by pronouncing twice, “I divorce you,” both are expected to think the situation over a period of two months and should remember God before giving notice a third time. If the husband has a change of opinion during this period, he can withdraw his words and he should keep his spouse with him in a spirit of goodwill. On the other hand, if he still wants to divorce her, he will say again, “I divorce you,” to his wife (not menstruating at that time) and they must again review the situation for a further month. During that period, if the husband has had a change of heart, he has the right to revoke the proceedings. If at the end of the third month he does not change his mind and does not revoke the proceedings then the divorce becomes final and the man ceases to have any right to revoke it. Now he is obliged to part with his wife in a spirit of goodwill, does no injustice to her, and gives her full rights.

This prescribed method of divorce has ensured that it is a well-considered, planned arrangement and not just a rash step taken in a fit of emotion. When we remember that in most cases, divorce is the result of a fit of anger, we realize that the prescribed method places a tremendous curb on divorce. It takes into account that anger never lasts and tempers cool down after some time.

Those who feel like divorcing their wives in a fit of anger will certainly repent their emotional outburst and will wish to withdraw from the predicament it has put them in. It also takes into account that divorce is a not a simple matter: it amounts to the breaking up of the home and destroying the children’s future. It is only when tempers have cooled down that the dire consequences of divorce are realized, and the necessity to revoke the decision becomes clear.

When a man marries a woman, he has to say only once that he accepts her as his spouse. But for finalizing a divorce three utterances are required, and the Qur’an enjoins a long gap of the three-month period for formalizing it. The purpose of this gap is to give the husband enough time to revise his decision and to consult the well-wishers around him. It also allows time for relatives to intervene in the hopes of persuading both husband and wife to avoid a divorce. Without this gap, none of these things could be achieved. That is why divorce proceedings have to be spread out over a long period of time.

All these preventive measures clearly allow frayed tempers to cool, so that the divorce proceedings need not reach a stage that is irreversible. Divorce, after all, has no saving graces, particularly in respect of its consequences. It simply amounts to rid oneself of one set of problems only to become embroiled in another set of problems.

Despite all such preventive measures, it does sometimes happen that a man acts in ignorance, or is rendered incapable of thinking coolly by a fit of anger. Then on a single occasion, in a burst of temper, he utters the word “divorce” three times in a row, “talaq, talaq, talaq!”

Such incidents, which took place in the Prophet’s lifetime, still take place even today. Now the question arises as to how the would-be divorcer should be treated. Should his three utterances of talaq be treated as only one, and should he then be asked to extend his decision over a three-month period? Or should his three utterances of talaq on a single occasion be equated with the three utterances of talaq made separately over a three-month period?

There is a Hadith recorded by Imam Abu Dawud and several other traditionists which can give us guidance in this matter: Rukana ibn Abu Yazid said “talaq” to his wife three times on a single occasion. Then he was extremely sad at the step he had taken. The Prophet asked him exactly how he had divorced her. He replied that he had said “talaq” to her three times in a row. The Prophet then observed, “All three count as only one. If you want, you may revoke it.” (Fath al-Bari, 9/275)

A man may say, “talaq” to his wife three times in a row, in contravention of the Sharia’s prescribed method, thereby committing a sin, but if he was known to be in an emotionally overwrought state at the time his act may be considered a mere absurdity arising from human weakness. His three utterances of the word talaq may be taken as an expression of the intensity of his emotions and thus the equivalent of only one such utterance. He is likely to be told that, having transgressed a Sharia Law, he must seek God’s forgiveness, must regard his three utterances as only one, and must take a full three months to arrive at his final decision.

On Tuesday, August 22, 2017, in a landmark judgement, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, Kurian Joseph, Rohinton Fali Norman, Uday Umesh Lalit and Abdul Nazeer struck down the practice of Triple Talaq declaring it as unconstitutional on the grounds that it goes against the Sharia Law and the basic tenets of the Quran.

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Tahir Mahmood, a noted Muslim jurist and former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities (thequint.com)

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The Quint spoke to noted Muslim jurist and former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Tahir Mahmood, on the obscurity of the debate surrounding triple talaq. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

“If we go strictly by the teachings of the Holy Quran or by the teachings of the Prophet, it is one of the best laws that humankind can have. This law is about 1,500 years old. It is a wonder that we had such a progressive law at that time.

In 7th century AD, Prophet Mohammad gave inheritance rights to women. We did not have equal rights for men and women, but the law provided for at least half the share to be given to the wife, the daughter, granddaughter, the mother, or even distant relatives. This would’ve been inconceivable anywhere else in the 7th century. That was one progressive aspect of it.

But the law as written in the holy book of Quran is very different from what is in practice. The world has no time to look at what the Quran says. Muslims all over the world go by what the community dictates, not by Quranic text.

The practice of triple talaq is most un-Islamic, most un-Quranic. Even if it’s single talaq, the result will be the same. What is being objected to, in the name of triple divorce, is the practice of Muslim men unilaterally divorcing their wives without following the procedure laid down in the Quran.

Triple divorce is a misnomer. The problem is unilateral divorce. The divorce laws are very comprehensive, but no one, including the maulavis, is following the religious text. The law is not just being implemented wrong, its interpretation is being completely distorted. The judiciary is the only means to correct this. There is no other way.”

To read more of the interview click this link:
https://www.thequint.com/news/india/to-ban-triple-talaq-stop-talking-about-uniform-civil-code-tahir-mahmood

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RELATED ARTICLES

Sharia (en.wikipedia.org)

What is meaning of triple talaq (quora.com)

To Ban Triple Talaq, We Must Stop Talking About UCC: Tahir Mahmood (thequint.com)

What is ‘triple talaq’ or instant divorce? ( aljazeera.com)

Nikah, Nikahnama and Talaq: Why understanding it is essential by Rana Safvi (shethepeople.tv)

How Did the Present-day Numerals Derive Their Form?


Myself 

 

 

BT.V. Antony Raj

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Numbers (Source: express.co.uk)

Numbers (Source: express.co.uk)

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A number in mathematics is an object used to count and measure. 1, 2, 3, and so forth are examples of natural numbers. In common usage, the term number may refer to a symbol, a word, or a mathematical abstraction.

The English names for the cardinal numbers were derived ultimately from Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language, the supposed proto-language that existed anywhere between 4000 and 8000 years ago. PIE was the first proposed proto-language to be widely accepted by linguists. With time, the pronunciation shifted and changed.

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Numeral Modern English Old English Proto-Germanic Proto-Indo-Germanic
1 one an ainaz oi-no
(originally meaning one, unique)originally meaning one, unique)
2 two twa twai duwo
3 three þ reoreoreoreo
(þ  here is the orthography for “th” as in “thing”)
thrijiz tris-
4 four feower petwor Kwetwer
5 five fif fimfe Penkwe-
6 six siex sekhs seks
7 seven seofon Sebum septm
8 eight eahta or æhta akhto Okto(u)-
9 nine nigen (the /g/ here is pronounced lije the y in “young”. Petwor- newn
10 ten ten tekhan dekm

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A numeral is a notational symbol that represents a number. We use the Hindu-Arabic numerals 0 to 9 every day. But how did these Hindu-Arabic numerals derive their form? It is a puzzle to me.

Some folk etymologies have argued that the original forms of these symbols indicated their value through the number of angles they contained, but no evidence exists of any such origin.

Recently I came across a statement that elaborated on the folk etymologies. It said:

“Numbers were named after the number of angles they represented, and each angle represented a quantity. For example, the number one has one angle, number two has two angles and so on. They have to be written with straight lines (not curved).”

I found the following image on Facebook.

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Numerals and angles
Numerals and angles

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Many have copied and propagated this image – the concept of angles associated with numbers. One can find them on Facebook and on many websites, explaining that this is how the numerals obtained their values.

But this claim seems to be spurious like many other urban legends. For example, 0 (zero) would have four angles if it is written with straight lines like the other numerals. So, here lies the fallacy.

So, I am still in a quandary.

Are there any authentic, rational explanation for how the present form of the Hindu-Arabic numerals we use today was derived?

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Aladdin Was a Chinese, Not an Arab!


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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If you hear the name Aladdin (Arabic: علاء الدين‎), immediately what comes to our mind is the story of a youth and the wonderful magic lamp. Isn’t it? It is one of the best known Middle Eastern folk tale in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (“The Arabian Nights”).

The story of “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” was not in the original collection of “The Arabian Nights”. There is no evidence among the Arabic sources for the magical tale.

Antoine Galland, a Frenchman, translated “The Arabian Nights” into french. He called his book “Les Mille et Une Nuits“. He incorporated the tale of “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” in his volumes ix and x, published in 1710.

In his diary, in the entry made on March 25, 1709, Galland wrote that he met the Maronite scholar named Youhenna Diab (“Hanna”). This scholar was brought from Aleppo to Paris by Paul Lucas, the celebrated French traveller. Galland says he heard the story of Aladdin from Hanna.

According to Antoine Galland, Aladdin was a Chinese, not an Arab.

Aladdin in the Magic Garden, an illustration by Max Liebert from Ludwig Fulda's Aladin und die Wunderlampe.
Aladdin in the Magic Garden, an illustration by Max Liebert from Ludwig Fulda’s Aladin und die Wunderlampe.

The story is set in China, and Aladdin is a Chinese youth. Most of the characters in this Middle Eastern tale are Muslims. and have Arabic names. The emperor in this tale seems more like a Muslim ruler than a Chinese emperor. There is a Jewish merchant who cheats Aladdin after buying his wares, but there is no mention of Buddhists or Confucians. This suggests that the storyteller had only a sparse knowledge of China and did not know much geography. He was unaware of the existence of the New World. To him, Aladdin’s “China” was “the Utter East” and the sorcerer’s homeland in the Maghreb (Northwest Africa) was “the Utter West”.

Some commentators suggest the story was set in Turkestan that encompasses Central Asia and the modern Chinese province of Xinjiang.

I believe the narrator of the Aladdin tale had without qualms used an exotic setting as a common storytelling device.

Here is the story of “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” in a summarized form:

The Sorcerer tricks Aladdin into believing that he is his true Paternal Uncle. (Aladin - illustré par Albert Robida - Paris - Imagerie merveilleuse de l'Enfance - Illustration de la page 4)
The Sorcerer tricks Aladdin into believing that he is his true Paternal Uncle. (Aladin – illustré par Albert Robida – Paris – Imagerie merveilleuse de l’Enfance – Illustration de la page 4)

Aladdin, an impoverished youth, lives in a Chinese town. A sorcerer from the Maghreb (Northwest Africa) approaches Aladdin and his mother. He introduces himself as the brother of his Aladdin’s late father Mustapha the tailor. He promises Aladdin’s mother that he would set up the youth as a merchant. The sorcerer’s real motive was to retrieve a wonderful lamp from a booby-trapped magic cave with the help of young Aladdin. He lends Aladdin a magic ring for protection.

The Sorcerer traps Aladdin in the magic cave. (Aladin - illustré par Albert Robida - Paris - Imagerie merveilleuse de l'Enfance - Illustration de la page 1)
The Sorcerer traps Aladdin in the magic cave. (Aladin – illustré par Albert Robida – Paris – Imagerie merveilleuse de l’Enfance – Illustration de la page 1)

As soon as Aladdin retrieves the lamp from the cave the sorcerer double-crosses him and traps Aladdin in the magic cave.

Fortunately, the sorcerer’s magic ring is with Aladdin. When Aladdin rubs his hands in despair, he rubs the ring inadvertently. A jinnī (or “genie”) appears and takes him home to his mother. Aladdin gives the dirty lamp to his mother. When the mother tries to clean the lamp, a genie more powerful than the ring genie, appears. This genie of the lamp declares that he is bound to do the bidding of the person currently holding the lamp.

With the help of the genie of the lamp, Aladdin becomes rich and powerful. He marries Princess Badroulbadour, the Emperor’s daughter. The genie of the lamp builds Aladdin a magnificent palace more luxurious than that of the Emperor.

The sorcerer returns. Aladdin’s wife is unaware of the lamp’s importance. The sorcerer tricks her to part with the old lamp by offering to exchange “new lamps for old”.

The sorcerer then orders the genie of the lamp to move Aladdin’s palace along with all its contents, including the princess, to the Maghreb.

Aladdin gets help from the lesser powerful genie of the magic ring. The genie transports Aladdin to the Maghreb where he recovers the wonderful lamp and kills the sorcerer in battle. Aladdin then asks the genie of the lamp to move the palace along with all its contents, including the princess, back to its proper place.

The sorcerer’s more powerful and evil brother disguises himself as an old woman known for her healing powers. The princess falls for his disguise and commands the “old woman” to stay in her palace to cure anyone who falls ill.

The genie of the lamp warns Aladdin about the sorcerer in masquerading as the ‘old woman’. Aladdin slays the imposter. Aladdin succeeds to his father-in-law’s throne and everyone lives happily ever after.

Greek Fire – The Secret Weapon of the Byzantine Empire


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Greek Fire
Image from an illuminated manuscript, the Skylitzes manuscript in Madrid, showing Greek fire in use against the fleet of the rebel. The caption above the left ship reads, στόλος Ρωμαίων πυρπολῶν τὸν τῶν ἐναντίων στόλον, i.e. “the fleet of the Romans setting ablaze the fleet of the enemies”.

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As early as the 9th century BC, the Assyrians and the Greco-Roman world used fiery weapons such as incendiary arrows and pots that contained combustible substances in warfare. Thucydides mentioned the use of tubular flame throwers during the siege of Athens in 424 BC. According to the chronicler John Malalas, the naval fleet of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I used a sulphur-based mixture to subdue the revolt of Vitalianas in 515 AD as advised by Proclus, a philosopher from Athens.

During the classical and medieval periods – about 8th century BC until the mid-16th century AD, warring factions used thermal weapons such as burning projectiles and other incendiary devices to burn, damage and destroy enemy personnel, fortifications, towns, villages and farms.

In the simplest, and most common cases, the antagonists used boiling water and hot sand, as thermal projectiles. They poured or spewed hot liquefied bitumen, pitch, resin, animal fat and boiling oil, and at times chemicals such as sulphur and nitrates that burned or caused physical irritation over the enemy who tried to scale their fortifications, or projected the incendiaries onto the enemies waiting at a distance using war machines such as catapults. They used smoke to confuse or drive off attackers.

They followed the scorched-earth strategy – a practice carried out by an army in enemy territory or in its own home territory that involved destroying large tracts of land, towns, villages, and assets used or can be used by the enemy such as food sources, and transportation.

Though the Western Roman Empire fragmented and collapsed in the 5th century, the Byzantine Empire continued to thrive. It existed for more than a thousand years as the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe until 1453.

Greek fire - 2

An incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire in naval battles known as “Greek fire” instilled fear in its enemies and helped to win many Byzantine military victories.  It saved Constantinople from two Arab sieges securing the Empire’s survival. It provided a technological advantage over other incendiaries because It continued to burn while floating on water.

When the west European Crusaders came face-to-face with the Greek fire, it made an impression such that they applied the name to any incendiary weapon, including those used by the Arabs, the Chinese, and the Mongols.

Even though we use the term “Greek fire” in English and in many other languages, the original Byzantine sources called it by a variety of names, such as: “sea fire” (Ancient Greek: πῦρ θαλάσσιον), “Roman fire” (πῦρ ῥωμαϊκόν), “war fire” (πολεμικὸν πῦρ), “liquid fire” (ὑγρὸν πῦρ), or “manufactured fire” (πῦρ σκευαστόν).

The Byzantine formula for the composition of Greek fire, a closely guarded state secret, now lost, remains a matter of speculation and debate. Some  suggest  combinations of pine resin, naphtha, quicklime, sulphur, or nitre (the mineral form of potassium nitrate, KNO3, also known as saltpetre). Byzantines used pressurized siphons to project the liquid incendiary mixtures onto the enemy.

Saint Theophanes the Confessor, a member of the Byzantine aristocracy who became a monk and chronicler accredits Kallinikos, an architect from Heliopolis in the former province of Phoenice, by then overrun by the Muslim conquests, as the developer of the Greek fire around 672 AD. However, Thephanes also reports the use of fire-carrying and siphon-equipped ships by the Byzantines a couple of years before the supposed arrival of Kallinikos at Constantinople. The report of this chronicler stands unresolved due to the variance  in the chronology of events.

Around 672, the Arabs who subdued Syria, Palestine and Egypt now set out to capture Constantinople, the imperial capital of the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine navy used Greek fire to repel the Muslims during the first and second Arab sieges of the city. During the expansion of the Byzantine Empire in the late 9th and early10th centuries, the Byzantines used Greek fire in naval battles against the Saracens.

The Byzantines themselves used Greek fire in their civil wars, for example, in the revolt of the thematic fleets in 727 and during the large-scale rebellion in i821–823 led by Thomas the Slav. In both cases, the  Imperial Fleet defeated the rebel fleets by using Greek fire. The Byzantines also used the weapon against the various Rus’  raids to the Bosporus in 941 and 1043, as well as in the Bulgarian war of 970–971, when the fire-carrying Byzantine ships blockaded the Danube.

The Byzantines believed that divine intervention led to the discovery of Greek fire during the Empire’s struggle against the Arabs. Emperor Constantine Porphyrogennetos who ruled from 945 to 959 in his book De Administrando Imperio, advised his son and heir, Romanos II never to reveal the secrets of its composition. He wrote that since it was “shown and revealed by an angel to the great and holy first Christian Emperor Constantine” and that the angel bound him “not to prepare this fire but for Christians, and only in the imperial city.” He also warns by citing an incident of one official bribed into handing some of it over to the Empire’s enemies struck down by a “flame from heaven.”

However, the enemies of the Byzantine Empire captured their precious secret weapon: in 827, the Arabs captured at least one fireship intact, and in 812/814, the Bulgars captured several siphons and a fair amount of the substance. Even so, the Bulgars found the amount of substance not sufficient enough to copy it. The Arabs used a variety of incendiary substances similar to the Byzantine Greek fire, but they never succeeded in copying the Byzantine method of deployment by siphon – they used catapults and grenades.

Greek fire continued to be mentioned during the 12th century. Anna Komnene, a Greek princess, scholar, physician, hospital administrator and the daughter of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos of Byzantium in her book Alexiad gives a vivid description of the use of Greek fire in a naval battle against the Pisans in 1099.

During the 1203 siege of Constantinople by the Crusade, though reports mentioned hastily improvised fire-ships, none of them confirmed the use of the actual Greek fire. This might be because of the disarmament of the Empire in the twenty years leading up to the sacking of Constantinople, or because the Byzantines had lost access to the territories where the ingredients that composed the Greek fire were to be found, or because the secret had been lost over time.

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Which Countries Voted for Palestine …


Palestine vote

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The UN general assembly has just voted overwhelmingly to recognize Palestine as a state. An astounding 138 nations chose to support the path of peace and justice.

Just weeks ago, the vote was expected to be much closer, with Israel and the US lobbying hard to deny Palestine key European support. But in the face of major public pressure and vigorous campaigning by the Avaaz community, countries such as France, Spain, Belgium and Sweden decided to vote yes to statehood for Palestine. In the end, just nine countries ended up on the wrong side of history: Israel, the US, Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

Celebrate this historic moment, share this map with everyone.

[Update: This map has been corrected to show New Zealand also voted in favor, rather than abstaining.]

Source: AVAAZ.ORG

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