Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hamid Algar on Abbas Amanat: a delicious book critique

This is a most delicious book critique--one of the best I have read in recent times.  Read for example this passage on the coinage of the "Great Satan":  "Amanat finds worthy of quite lengthy analysis the designation of the United States as the Great Satan in the lexicon of the Islamic Revolution. His discussion of ΟμΓ^ηίο verses concerning Satan leads him to the conclusion that there is no hierarchy among devils; the fact, however, that in sixty-eight verses shaytan is preceded by the definite article does suggest that one among them incorporates satanic qualities more fully than the others. He then moves on to a consideration of the polluting qualities of Satan as detailed in Majlisi's Hilyat al-Muttaqin and a reminder that in Zoroastrianism the believer must preserve himself from Ahrimanic befoulment. But, he informs us, there is a source closer in time for this particular revolutionary slogan - Radio Moscow. For Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas recalls in his memoir, Strange Lands and Friendly People, that after he visited Iran in 1949 and 1950, Radio Moscow denounced him as 'the Big Devil' and his son as 'the Little Devil'. Now, surmises Amanat in characteristic fashion, 'it is safe to assume that the mullas in Qom were listening' to the broadcasts of Radio Moscow (215 - with added emphasis).32  the broadcasts of Radio Moscow (215 - with added emphasis).32 The implied conclusion is that 'the mullas', their ears glued to the radio, were so impressed by Moscow's description of Justice Douglas that they thought it might come in useful one day, which indeed it did, thirty years later on the occasion of the Islamic Revolution. Thus does Radio Moscow join the Reverend Henry Martyn as a remote and unsuspected source for the Islamic Revolution."  My favorite part is this appendix:
We append here a small sample of the misspellings, mistranslations, and associated errors of language that pervade the work. We leave unnoticed numerous errors of English grammar and usage.
p. 3 Nazari should be Nizari.
p. 11 Mutisharri'a should be Mutasharri'a.
p. 45 faki is a modified form not offaqir but oïfaqih.
p. 49 al-Sahib al-Zaman should be Sahib al-Zaman.
p. 50 al-Bihar al-Anwar should be Bihar al-Anwar.
p. 59 taharri-yi haqiqat does not mean 'truth liberation' but 'searching for the truth'; here, Amanat has confused tabarri with tahrir, which is derived from an entirely different triliteral root. He does, however, translate the word correctly on p. 224 as 'investigation'.
p. 59 Ederna should be Edirne.
p. 62 rawh should be ruh.
p. 95 Mawira' al-Nahr should be Mawara' al-Nahr.
p. 114 man uzhurullah should be manyuzhiruhullah.
p. 134 khatam al-nabVin should be khatam al-nabiyin.
p. 153 al-a'lamfi al-a'lam should be al-a'lamfa al-a'lam (meaning 'the most learned, and then the next most learned').
p. 155 Bushher should be Bushehr (or the Anglicized form of the name, Bushire).
p. 156 muqtadi should be muqtada.
p. 161 Mu'tamid al-Dawla should be Mu'tamad al-Dawla.
p. 175 maraji'-i 'uzam should be maraji'-i sizam.
p. 181 a'dal not 'most judicious' but 'most just' or, in this context,
Apocalyptic Islam - A Response to Amanat
Hamid Algar
'most morally upright',
p. 189 Sangilagi should be Sanglaji. p. 202 nijasat should be najasat.
P· 35 fisaha should befasaha. p. 203 Muna should be Mina,
p. 218 dalla means not 'despicable', but 'misguided',
p. 224 a'laim should be 'ala'im. p. 224 muballiq should be muballigh.
As for the maze of misprints found in the endnotes, we content ourselves with a mention of the comical downgrading of Nikki Keddie, professor emerita of Near Eastern History at UCLA, to 'Kiddie' (271, n. 66)."  (thanks Hussein)