Culture

Religion, Violence And Avijit 'Charbak' Roy

Blogger Avijit Roy was killed in public in Bangladesh on 26th February by Islamist fanatics, because he dared to ask many questions about The Quran. And the questions are not meant only for Islam. They can be targetted to any religion, any belief, any dogma, which poses a threat to humanity.

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Disclaimer: Any reference to the word “Hindu” or its kin is as per the discussion in this previous article:

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The transliteration and translation of the Arabic and Sanskrit texts are to the best of our knowledge, as available online too, referenced from the most credible sources. Any discrepancy, if noticed, would be unintentional.]

The 191st verse of the 2nd chapter of The Quran says,

Wa-uq’tuluhum, and kill them,

haythu thaqif’tumuhum, wherever you find them,

wa-akhrijuhum, and drive them out,

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min haythu akhrajukum, from wherever they drove you out,

wal-fit’natu ashaddu mina al-qatli, and Fitna, the tumult [of disbelief], is worse than al-qatli, the killing.

Later in the same verse it says,

Fa-in qatalukum, then if they fight you,

fa-uq’tuluhum, then kill them.

Kadhalika jazau al-kafirina, such is the reward, jazau, of the non-believers, kafirs.

The 193rd verse of the same chapter says,

Waqatiluhum hatta la takuna fit’natun, and fight them until not there is Fitna, tumult of disbelief,

wayakuna al-dinu lillahi, and [everything] becomes the religion for Allah.

Yusuf Ali, among the most well-known translators of The Quran, translates the above verse as, “And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, And there prevail Justice and faith in God.” Yusuf interprets “wayakuna al-dinu lillahi” as “and there prevail Justice and faith in God”, whereas the literal meaning of the expression conveys a somewhat different message.

Verse 56 of Chapter 3 says,

Fa-amma alladhina kafaru, then as for those who disbelieve, the kafirs,

fa-u`adhibuhum, then I will punish them,

`adhaban shadidan fi al-dun’ya wal-akhirati, a punishment, severe in the world and Hereafter.

Yusuf translates it as, “As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter.”

Finally, the 12th verse of Chapter 8 says,

Sa-ul’qi fi qulubi, I’ll cast in hearts,

alladhina kafaru, of those who disbelieved, the kafirs,

al-ru`’ba, the terror.

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Fa-id’ribu, so strike,

fawqa al-a`naqi, above the necks,

wa-id’ribu min’hum kulla bananin, and strike from them every fingertip.

Yusuf translates it as, “I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: Smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.”

The above few verses, quoted as from The Quran, talks very unambiguously about the violence to be inflicted upon the nonbelievers, the kafirs, or in other words, who are not the followers of Islam. These, and many more, are regularly used by the Islamic terror outfits to justify their atrocities towards the non-Muslims, across the world.

It can be argued that other religious texts too would contain violence. Very true. Let’s examine a few from the Rig Veda, the earliest Hindu book and also the first one known to mankind.

This is the verse number 7.83.1, 1st verse, 83rd hymn, 7th book of the Rig Veda.

yuvā narā paśyamānāsa āpyam prācā gavyanta pthuparśavo yayu

dāsā ca vtrā hatam āryāi ca sudāsam indrāvaruāvasāvatam ||

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Looking to you and your alliance (āpya), O ye Men, the Prithu-Parshus (pthu-parśava) went forward (prācā yayu), fain for spoil (gavyanta, the desire for go, cattle).

Ye smote and slew his Dāsa and his Āryan enemies, and helped Sudās with favour, Indra-Varuṇa.

Then there’s this verse, 7.18.14, 14th verse, 18th hymn, 7th book,

ni gavyavoanavo druhyavaśca aṣṭi śatā suupua sahasrā |

aṣṭirvīrāso adhi a duvoyu viśvedindrasya vīryā ktāni ||

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The Anus and Druhyus, seeking booty (gavya), have slept, the sixty hundred, yea, six thousand,

And six and sixty heroes. For the pious were all these mighty exploits done by Indra.

So it’s true that not only The Quran, even the Rig Veda too has “violent” passages, though in the Quranic verses, unlike the Rig Vedic, a nonbeliever is always the enemy. (The comparative analysis of the texts in the two books may not be relevant to the current topic of discussion.) But then what went wrong over the past one and a half millennia that the former is being quoted by terrorists to justify their dastardly acts of violence against mankind and the latter rarely finds any mention in connection to violence?

The answer is perhaps the fact that the Hindu schools of thought and religion, from time to time, were continuously challenged, from within, whenever anything appeared unreasonable or irrelevant. The first prophet of the world, Zarathustra, broke away from the Indo-Iranian common school as early as 10th century BC, in some sort of a defiance to a few aspects of the Rig Vedic thoughts. A few centuries later, Mahavira and Gautama Buddha again protested against certain aspects of the prevalent Hindu schools of thought and created two more variations. Hindu thoughts or books were never considered infallible and were always open to diverse range of arguments, thus creating divergent ideas and thoughts so as to fit in anyone without creating violent conflicts.

Islam, by construction, stopped any such questioning or challenging from within, forget from outside. Hence the texts, which are close to one and a half millennia old, are still being interpreted with an equally old mindset, without any scientific treatment. Avijit “Charbak” Roy, the slain American blogger, has many things to say here.

Avijit Roy would call himself Charbak (charbak_bd), perhaps fashioning himself as a modern day follower of Charvak, the crest-gem of the atheistic school, as old as Buddhism. In the Indian context, atheism was as much a Hindu school of religion as was, and is, anything else. The Hindu system allowed such a rebellious school to flourish, to the fury of many purists, but perhaps that’s the reason why we still have a running and functioning system with a relatively much lesser degree of fanaticism.

Roy (Source: Wikipedia) Roy (Source: Wikipedia)

Avijit Roy was killed in public in Bangladesh on 26th February by Islamist fanatics, because he dared to ask many questions about The Quran. The questions which if people had asked many many years ago, would have made the world a better place to live for all. And the questions are not meant only for Islam. The questions can be targetted to any religion, any belief, any dogma, which poses a threat to humanity.

“Being the founding moderator of Mukto-Mona…,” writes Avijit, “I had to engage in argument by discussing with indefinite numbers of Bangladeshi apologists; multitudinous are from highly educated Islamic origin…I have examined all the arguments (scientific-hermeneutic approach) the Islamic scholars commonly put forward in favor of the divine origin for the text of their holy scripture. I have also gone through many webpages, books and videos that have been produced by both Bengali and non-Bengali Islamic sources proclaiming that some verses in their scriptures contain super-scientific facts.” He then attempts to examine critically and carefully some, if not all, of the “miraculous scientific facts”, and point out some fallacies, myths and “clever reinterpretation” of the vague verses that appear in the debates with an intent to convince his adversaries about the pseudo-scientific claims.

One such claim Avijit tries to refute is that of the creation of the universe. Creation Hymn is there in almost all religious books. Let us first see it in The Quran, through Avijit’s explanation.

The verse in consideration is the 30th and 31st from the 21st chapter.

Awalam yara alladhin kafaru, don’t see those who disbelieved,

anna al-samawati wal-arda, that the heavens and the earth

kanata ratqan, were a joined entity;

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fafataqnahuma, then We parted them?

Waja`alna fi al-ardi, and we placed in the earth,

rawasiya an tamida bihim, firmly set mountains, lest it [should] shake with them.

Yusuf translates these as, “Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one Unit of Creation), before We clove them asunder?

And We have set on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with them.”

Avijit mentions that these verses are claimed by religious scientists like Professor Shamsher Ali, the Chairman of the Committee on Science in Al-Qur’an, Islamic Foundation, Bangladesh, and also a teacher in the Physics Department of the Dhaka University, as references to the Big Bang and the creation of the Universe. The professor believes that there is not a single verse in The Quran which is assailable from scientific point of view.

Avijit argues that the idea that the heavens and earth were once joined and then separated by the activity of Gods and Goddesses was actually quite common among the pagans of the Middle East. Among the Egyptians, he explains, it was the involuntary separation of Geb (the earth god) from his wife and sister Nut (the sky goddess) that was responsible for the division of the earth from the sky. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh likewise describes the moment “when the heavens had been separated from the earth, when the earth had been delimited from the heavens” as a result of the separation of a sky God (An) from the earth Goddess (Ki). Almost a similar story, he concludes, is there in The Quran too. Connecting it with the Big Bang is understandably ridiculous.

Avijit also points out that placing the mountains on the earth so that it wouldn’t shake sounds like putting a paperweight on a paper so that it wouldn’t fly away.

Very interestingly the Rig Veda has a hymn (10.129) called the “Song of Creation”, which deals with skepticism the knowledge about the creation of universe.

Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?

The Gods are later than this world’s production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

Creation of the universe has been claimed to be an achievement of the supreme God in almost all religions. But very interestingly, even in a book of praise for the gods, Indians didn’t make such a tall claim without skepticism.

Apart from the Creation Myth, Avijt goes on to crush nine other “Scientific Miracles” attributed to The Quran.

When we’re anyway talking about skepticism and scientific analysis of ancient texts, how can we forget a recent controversy?

The recently held 102nd Indian Science Congress had a session on Ancient Sciences Through Sanskrit. The paper which created the most flutter there was Ancient Indian Aviation Technology, presented by Captain Bodas, a retired principal of a pilot training institute and Ameya Jadhav, a lecturer at the Swami Vivekanand International School and Junior College. The authors claimed that the knowledge of advanced aviation technology, capable of inter-planetary flights, was available since the ancient times. References were cited from the Rig Veda. As a landmark treatise on aviation was cited a book called Vymanika Shastra of which was claimed a very antique ancestry.

H.S. Mukunda, S.M. Deshpande, H.R. Nagendra, A. Prabhu and S.P. Govindaraju of the Indian Institute of Science had written a paper way back in 1974 titled A Critical Study Of The Work Vymanika Shastra where they proved that the treatise in question was created sometime in the early 20th century and that nothing of what is mentioned there can be seriously taken as aviation technology.

It’s worth mentioning that in the late 19th century book Rigvedadi Bhashya Bhumika, Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati cited a few hymns from the Rig Veda, which he grossly misinterpreted as references to airplanes.

The two lines from one of the hymns (1.34.2) in question are as follows:

Trayah pavayo madhu-vaahane rathe somasya venaam anu vishva id viduh |
Traya skambhaasa skambhitaasa aarave trir natkam yaathas trir v asvinaa divaa ||

The first line when translated to English means: “Three are the fellies in your honey-bearing car, madhu-vaahana ratha, that travels after Soma’s loved one, venaa, as the world, vishva, knows.”

It’s a hymn dedicated to the Ashwins, the two charioteers who appear in the sky before the dawn in a golden carriage drawn by horses or birds. It’s really an extreme extrapolation to equate the “honey bearing car”, madhu vaahana ratha, or the golden carriage to airplanes. Most epics are replete with such things which can’t be anything more than figments of imagination.
The second line is what, we feel, has been tweaked to forcibly bring references to airplanes.

It translates as: Three, traya, are the pillars, skambha, set upon it for support, skambhita: thrice journey, aarave, ye by night, nakta, thrice by day, divaa.

Maharshi’s interpretation is: going from one island to another with these crafts in three days and nights. It can’t be figured out how this interpretation could be made out of the above lines. Few other such misleading interpretations have been cited by the IISC professors in their papers. These interpretations have been liberally used by the propagandists of Vymanikaa Shastra to support their antique aviation theory.

So, as we’ve seen, misinterpreting religious texts is not restricted only to Islam. Many Hindu texts too have been misinterpreted many times, with agendas. But the infallibility that’s accorded to The Quran perhaps surpasses everything. Unless someone, preferably from within, stands up and points fingers to himself and decides to make changes, religion and violence will perhaps become synonymous one day.

To stop the rampant usage of the Quranic verses to support any sort of inhumanity towards mankind, especially women and nonbelievers, kafirs, someone has to stand up and acknowledge that there is indeed a problem somewhere, either with the interpretation of the verses or with the verses themselves. It’s not that there’s no violence against women and mankind in general in non-Islamic countries which don’t follow the Sharia, but then in those countries the crimes are not justified in the name of religion. That makes a big difference.

The world has changed in the past one and a half millennia. Human civilization has made immense progress. That needs religions too to come up to speed and align themselves with the new age, new people and new ways of life.

That’s why atheists and Charvaks like Avijit Roy are needed in the society, to point fingers to whatever is wrong in religions.

 

 

References:

  • Transliterations of Quranic texts: www.quran.com
  • Translations of Quranic verses: www.sacred-texts.com
  • All Rig Vedic texts/translations/interpretations: Myths & Truths Behind The Ekkos Clan, April 2014, ISBN 149757420X, by Sudipto Das

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