Thursday, April 23, 2015

Is Allah Syriac? Shaka Ahmose and the Sloppy Scholarship of the Afrocentric Jihad

(Black Arabia Strikes Back)

The gasping Afrocentric Jihad against Islam has a new magic bullet: the claim that the Arabic divine name "Allah" derived from Syriac, particularly Syriac Christianity. This is supposed to somehow disauthenticate Islam's Allah. Of course, the most current advocate of this is Shaka Ahmose.

Now, if it was true that the current Arabic "Allah" is anchored in a Syriac "Allaha," that would cause me no discomfort at all. I have demonstrated in my book Black Arabia and the African Origin of Islam (2009) that the Modern Standard Arabic quadraliteral word "Allah" is a very late development from the Proto-Semitic biliteral word ʾḷ (pronounced Alah); both the Modern Standard Arabic Allah and the Syriac Allaha are both quite late branches on the "Alah Tree."

Nevertheless, the Magic Bullet is only a Nerf and does nothing more than demonstrate luminously the shobby, sloppy scholarship of the Afrocentric Jihad which relies on outdated and discredited sources. It routinely fails to engage the most current scholarship on a subject. It is true that neither Shaka Ahmose nor the Afrocentric Jihad originated this claim: it was seriously and soberly entertained in Islamicist scholarship as early as Arthur Jeffery's "The Foreign Vocabulary in the Qur'an" (1938). Today, however, it is mainly discredited "throw-back" or "wannabe" Orientalist Christian scholars like the pseudonynous Christoph Luxenberg who champion this "Allah is Syric" Cause. And it is these outdated and/or academically spurious sources that are the sources for the Afrocentric Jihad. Nothing surprising there.

Nonetheless, the credibility of an idea does not live or die on the credentials (or lack thereof) of its popular advocates. The "Allah is Syriac" claim is discredited though the linguistic data and revealed by the most recent sober research done on the question.

Specifically, David Kiltz in his study“The Relationship between Arabic Allāh and Syriac Allāhā,” Der Islam 88 (2012): 33-50 takes up the question and, after reviewing the data, finds that the grammatical evidence militates against the Syriac being the origin of the Arabic Allah. He concludes:

“Regardless of whether the Arabic word was or was not the source of Syriac allāhā, the Arabic can be plausibly explained as being not a loan word but the result of inner-Arabic developments...There is no reason to assume a loan from Syriac into Arabic, as allāh is perfectly motivated, i.e. phonetically regular, in (some dialects of) Arabic and its development within Arabic is safely accounted for.” (45-46).

Case Closed

Ra IZ Allah: Response to Asar Imhotep. Part I: Deconstructive Analysis

Black Arabia Strikes Back I

(For Mature Audiences Only)

This Report is Part I of my response to Asar Imhotep’s 2013 critical review or attempted refutation of my 2009 work, Black Arabia and the African Origin of Islam, specifically a particular claim that I made therein. Imhotep’s critical review is very lengthy and robust: over 80 pages dense with linguistic theorizing. My response of necessity is equally lengthy and robust with a heavy indulgence in historical linguistics. This ensures that, unfortunately, this Report will be no easy read for those unfamiliar with the field of linguistics and its jargon. I apologize up front. But because the matters on which Imhotep and I are at variance are linguistic matters, there is no avoiding this difficulty for the reader. Language and linguistics, like higher mathematics, is Big Boy and Big Girl stuff. This Report is thus for mature audiences only. The consolation is this: if you have read and were able to follow Imhotep’s critical review then you should have little difficulty reading this Report.

        This Report will be issued in two parts. Part I is a Deconstructive Analysis of Imhotep’s critique. Here I highlight some of the merits of Imhotep’s work, but also and in great detail the many academic problems with it: the methodological issues, the data issues, etc. Here not only are many of Imhotep’s conclusions impeached, but his scholarly license to even engage the subjects that he has and in the way that he has appears, well, counterfeit. It should not be concluded from this, however, that Imhotep’s critique has no value at all. Despite its many and fatal documented problems, this critique by Imhotep actually has made an important contribution to the overall discourse on Africa, Egypt and Islam. There are points of his critique that I concede, and thus my personal consideration of these matters have benefited from Imhotep’s contribution. The forthcoming Part II of this Report is a Constructive Analysis. Here I document in much detail the linguistic origin of the Egyptian God Rah (Rʿ) and the Semitic God Allah (͗Aḷah). I demonstrate that, contra Imhotep, these two are dialectical variants of the same deity. In other words, Rah IZ Allah, still.

          There can be no doubt that on first sight and on first read Imhotep’s critical examination of my thesis is an imposing and impressive piece of scholarship. Even after the second, third and fourth reads compel a more sober perspective one cannot help but remain impressed with Imhotep’s mind. This critique of my 2009 argument definitely warrants applause in places, but it also warrants reprimand. Within those pages one finds impressive erudition, brilliant insights and a commendable critical mind at work. Within those same pages, however, these merits sit all too comfortably alongside poor methodology, a lack of thoroughness, misrepresentation, misappropriation, and a much too laissez faire approach to the scholarly convention of citing sources and documenting claims.

          What then might we say in conclusion about Imhotep’s scholarly offering after such a “deconstructive analysis”? Despite its insights and moments of brilliance, this critique smacks of amateurism concealed behind eloquent verbosity. Imhotep’s lack of formal training either as a linguist or an historian shines through as brightly as does his natural brilliance. His methodological parochialism and the many faulty conclusions produced ultimately renders this work of scholarship a valuable read but an unqualified authority on most of the subjects broached therein. Imhotep too often ventured into areas for which he failed to properly prepare and the overall value of this work is severely diminished as a result, at least its value as a scholarly authority on the relevant matters.

Go to document here: