Saturday, 22 October 2016

Prashant Keshavmurthy on Bedil's cow killing Brahmin.

Prashant Keshamurthy has written a thought provoking article - or if not thought provoking exactly, then a provoking, at any rate- about this couplet from Bedil
qatl-e arbāb-e havas bar ahl-e dil makrūh nīst
gar ba khūn-e gāv sāzad birhaman zunnār surkh

which I (very superficially!) translate as follows-
Killing the Lords of Lust, for the people of the heart, were neither misguided nor a must
 Did, in concordant part, the Brahman, with his hoary lore keeping trust
By the slaughter of kine
His sacred thread incarnadine.

Dil means heart; 'be-dil' would be 'without a heart'- i.e. a lover far gone, indeed, upon its pilgrim path. Bedil took his takhallus (pen-name) from a line in the Gulistan which says 'be dil az be nishan cheh garid baz' (what should a man without a heart (a lover) say about the one who leaves no sign (God)'? The 'ahl-e-dil', the 'people of the heart' have not reached this stage of apophatic gnosis because their hearts remain with them though they already wish otherwise. They are like- and Indians, even in English!, use 'if' and 'unless' not as a strict conditional but a looser connective conformable with an occasionalist ontology- the ritualistic Brahmin who has not yet slain his sacred cow and thus remains a captive of delusive Duality. What should they do?

Qatl means killing.  Arbaab-e-havas means the Masters of 'havas' which, in poetry, generally connotes the overpowering longing for union- sexual or mystic- which, precisely because it is overpowering, is subject to a sort of Dialectical irony and reversal such that death on the path to the beloved becomes something to be more strongly sought for than even sexual union as in the Hubb al Udhri tradition enshrined in stories like Laylah & Majnun or even (in my view), Devdas & Parvati.

Bedil himself wrote a more optimistic, 'liberal' (jadidi), archetypal romance- the basis of the Tajik opera Komde va Madan- and so 'havas', in his acceptation, has greater plasticity precisely because of his Akhbari imaginal power and philosophical depth.
By contrast, Iqbal- who appreciated Bedil and invoked Akhbari barzakh, but whose belatedly bidungsburgertum proclivity was of a decidedly philologically underpowered or psilosophically paranoid, nihilistically Nietzchean, cast- could write-
Majnoon Ne Sheher Chora Tu Sehra Bhi Chor De
Nazare Ki Hawas Ho To Laila Bhi Chor De

Majnun has quit the Town, quit thou the Sahara too
Desert that very Lailah, thy Sun burns to but view
(The word 'Majnoon' means mad and refers to Qais, a pre-Islamic Sun worshiper, who loved Laylah (her name means Night). Heine has a poem on the Banu Udhra.)
Bedil, however, in one of his most famous couplets, offered a different resolution to the Udhri hajj to an incompossible havas-
Ba hazār kūcha dawīdam-am, ba tasallī narasidam-am
Zī qad khamida shinīda-am, kī chū halqa shud ba darī rasad

No talker reached tranquility, through a thousand streets running, ten thousand more to explore

Till I heard from an elder, who turns into a ring reaches, as its knocker, her door.


I have said 'havas' is that ever mounting yearning for Union- though Eros and Thanatos change places. However, in ordinary parlance, havas also means greed of a type which is not forbidden by religion but is 'makruh'- i.e. detestable or ill-judged because it arises from egotism, caprice, weakness of the will, a materialistic disposition etc.
In Turkish, there is an additional connotation of something fraudulent- including a type of self-deceit brought on by extreme passion. Thus a false pregnancy, claimed by a woman of the harem who is so desperate to become a mother that she herself believes she is with child would be termed 'havasak'. 
Clearly, extreme passion- whether it arise from lust or greed or self-aggrandizement- can result in behavior which though not against the letter of the law is nevertheless 'makruh'- something to be avoided.
The problem we have is that our passions are what fuels our engagement in things which are necessary from the biological, social, economic and even political and philosophical point of view. How are we to place reins upon the ego within us which constantly pushes us onward, thus raising the risk that we go too far, while guarding against lapsing into apathy by reason of too repressive a curb placed upon one's instinctual drives or 'animal spirits'?
 Even if we scrupulously observe every article of the Law- Religious or Secular- still, many of our actions will be 'makruh'- detestable- because the Law does not cover every contingency nor can it, by reason of its generality, prescriptively regulate every inward state.
One apparent solution is to subject our passions to a punitive regime- an incessant self-flagellation- and then believe ourselves to be saved when these 'inner demons' appear to have been killed by our austerities.
However, this killing of something within us- though not against the letter of the Law- nevertheless may be 'makruh'. Rather than becoming better people, we might present as self-righteous zealots and work a mischief within the commonwealth. Moreover, there is the problem of self-deceit. One who claims to slain all his inner demons, to have cut the throats of all his passions, to have converted to the true Religion even his daimon or Qarin, may be like the woman with a a hysterical pregnancy- merely  'havasak'- full off wind, not quick with child.

For spiritual personalities like Bedil, who himself underwent harsh austerities in youth, a mystical 'non-dual' philosophy enabled 'ahl-e-dil'- people of the heart- to walk a 'middle way' that was also the 'barzakh' or isthmus between two seas- one salt, one sweet- in which the power of the imagination was harnessed to the true soteriological logic of Creation which unfolds through paradox and bewilderment.

Turning to the second line of Bedil's couplet- which, Keshavmurthy says, makes the condign killing of one's inner demon of lust or egotism conditional upon an oxymoron- viz. the existence of a Brahmin who kills cows (we might say, a Chief Rabbi who eats pork, or an Ayatollah who gets drunk, or a Pope who sodomises Donald Trump on Fox News)- we are initially tempted to think that Bedil is prescribing an antinomian course a la Omar Khayyam.
After all, it is not even permissible to pray that one's Qarin (daimon, the inner voice which counsels bad actions) to be converted to Islam- how much greater is the sin of trying to kill this indwelling creature which the Creator has specifically licensed to torment you!
If Bedil himself had been a wine-bibber, not a spiritual savant and mystic genius, this would be an acceptable interpretation. We would say, 'Bedil is a malamati Sufi. He is saying 'why struggle against your passions? Society would only consider it not 'makruh'- abominable- to slay that portion of yourself if the Brahmin slays his own Holy Cow!'

This raises the question, under what circumstances would a Brahmin kill a cow? When would a Rabbi eat pork or an Ayatollah get drunk? Leaving aside simple mistake or mental infirmity, there are three possible answers
1)  a direct command by the Creator- e.g. Abraham must kill his son. Notice that there was at least one other Semitic community where this practice was not makruh. God didn't say to Ishmael, sodomise your Dad, as Ham did with Noah. Also, tear his dick off while giving him a reach-around.
Though there is a Talmudic source for this notion, no such command has ever been granted divine legitimacy. The thing is too bizarrely distasteful.
2) exigent circumstances . Here, an equitable exception to the rule is granted based on a consequentialist calculus. Thus a Rabbi may eat pork if it averts a holocaust of his people; an Ayatollah, in the absence of any other anaesthetic, may get drunk on brandy so that a life-saving medical operation can be performed.
3) legalistic compulsion.  An over scrupulous Brahmin may slaughter a cow, in the hope of gaining Heaven, relying upon an religious injunction in his Revealed Scripturem but this action, in Bedil's India, would be 'makruh' by 'common knowledge' and also illegal under many secular jurisdictions then obtaining- Hindu or Muslim.
Interestingly, in Bedil's native Patna, the learned Brahmins point to Rishi Kapila's refusal to entertain the piteously pedantic plea of a cow (actually controlled by another Rishi named Syumarashmi) to be sacrificed in accordance with Shruti (Revealation). The context is Nahusha- a mortal King, exemplary in legalistic Justice- gaining the throne of Heaven through an election necessitated by a crime committed by Indra, the Indian Zeus. Nahusha's lust causes him to demand sexual union with Indrani- Heaven's Queen. She enlists upa-shruti (rumor, as quotidian Sittlichkeit's, ubiquitous and prophetless Revelation, but also what Jews know as 'bat kol') to topple the new King who rose by his legalistic adherence to Shruti. Interestingly, it is Nahusha's refusal to deny that cow-slaughter is required by Scripture which is highlighted in the story of his fall.

Still, cow slaughter is not the real issue here. Nahusha falls because, though his actions were legal in the sense of conforming with indefeasible Revelation, they overshot the mark (hamartia) by reason of ungovernable lust or egotism and thus his conduct, deserving of a Nemesis, was, so to speak, makruh.

All legalistic traditions understand that proceeding on the basis of Revealed, or otherwise indefeasible, Texts involves what Sir Edward Coke called 'artificial reason'. Thus, even if 'the wisest fool in Christendom' had a superior 'rational' argument, it is inadmissible. Moreover, this 'artificial reason' must be applied only in a dispassionate and impartial spirit.
Similarly the Sanhedrin barred 'bat kol'- the voice from Heaven. Even if the All High directly confirm an argument that appeals to our rationality or our passions, it can be rejected.


Returning to the list previously given of situations where a priest might violate the rules of his religion, it is easy to see that though the action in question may be legal or even obligatory in context, it still remains 'makruh'- repugnant.
At first blush, it might appear that, Bedil is saying, killing the 'arbaab-e-havas'- our own Lordly desires- is abominable no matter what Scripture or esoteric Soteriology enjoins. However, this is not the case. Suppose Kapila & Syumarashmi had engaged in what Shantideva calls the quickest and most efficacious of soteriological techniques- viz. paratman parivartana- i.e. they had swopped selves- then the Shrauta cow slaughter could have gone ahead without being 'makruh' or causing scandal. Why? Well, rather than a priest killing a helpless cow for a private benefit, what we would be viewing would be something like 'informed consent' whereby a patient quite properly licenses a surgeon to do something which, from the ordinary point of view, would be the crime of mutilation. Here 'Dialogic' has created a new class of objects to which ordinary deontic logic does not apply- indeed, where it is reversed.
In plain language, setting aside the sort of immemorial esoteric soteriology Bedil imbibed in his youth in Shantideva's old stamping ground, the fact is, 'people of the heart'- including Bedil's own ecumencial following- should 'put themselves in the other's shoes'. However, it must be said, ipseity and alterity feature differently here- for giving rise to a positive sum 'Dialogic'- than in the shrill Identity Politics of availability cascade based Academia.

 Keshavmurthy- perhaps part of a wider academic availability cascade based on a systematic and wholly stupid misprision of Sarah Stroumsa's 1985 essay on 'the Barahima and early Kalam'- ignores the fact that Bedil's Uncle chased away the Arabic Grammarians who turned up to teach the young prodigy- precisely because it is common knowledge that a proclivity for kalam type disputation is the hallmark of the meretricious sophist- in order to say something utterly foolish and false.
'the Brahman of the Persian literary imagination was continuous with the Brahman of the earliest texts of kalām or rational theology in Arabic, whether Muslim or Jewish. This Brahman was purely a debate opponent invoked by Muslim and Jewish theologians to defend the necessity of prophecy. These heresiarchs  presented him as a proponent of the sufficiency of human reason and thus of the redundancy of prophets. Sarah Stroumsa, a scholar of early Islamic-Jewish theology, has argued that early Muslim-Jewish theological debates were shaped by encounters with Brahmans and that these debates were conducted solely on the shared ground of logic, avoiding reference to theological doctrines specific to each side. The polemically simplified picture of the Brahman this left behind in the archive of early Muslim-Jewish heresiography was perhaps what allowed him to pass from theology into literature, where he congealed into a stock character'

Stroumsa never said encounters with actual Brahmans shaped kalam- for the simple reason that they were not available to be encountered as anything other than cringing slaves as opposed to erudite and obstreperous opponents in debate. Some type of Buddhism, however, might feasibly contributed to the notion of the Prophesy denying Barahima because Buddhism, unlike Hinduism, doesn't have an 'uncreated' Revealed Scripture.

I suppose it is possible that a Persian poet who did not come to India till quite late in life and who, for some reason had read Shahristani but not Al Biruni, might associate the Brahmans he saw about him with the 'Barahamia' mentioned in kalam literature. Still, his audience would soon inform him that the term in India meant a ritualistic idolator, not a rationalist philosopher, and thus a good symbol of the poet deranged by a futile passion.  Jehangir's laureate, Talib Amoli's couplet- Na malaamat-gar-i kufr am na ta'assub-kash-i deen/ khanda-haa bar jadl-i Shaikh-o Barhaman daaram- could, I suppose, be read in Keshavmurthy's way- i.e. 'Being neither an antinomian nor the fanatic of some sect/ To laugh at both Shaikh and Brahman, I sensibly elect'- but only because Amoli was highly individual & often incoherent- indeed he went mad. However, the plain meaning, more especially in the context of Jehangir's court, is that Priests of whatever stripe are pretty much of a muchness and only good for providing comic relief.
The Brahman is indeed 'a stock character' in Indian Farsi poetry but nothing associated with the 'Barahima' of kalam entered into the 'congealing' of this figure. Consider Fayzi's couplet- Shukr-i khuda ki ishq-i butan ast rahbaram/ bar millat-i brahman-o bar din-i Azaram- 'Thank God, love of idols has guided me thus far!/ I'm of the sept of the Brahmans and the religion of Azar.'
Granting Keshavmurthy's novel acceptation of 'Brahman'; at first glance, we might think that the scholarly Fayzi's mention of Azar- called the father of the Prophet Abraham in the Holy Quran (6.74)- links the Brahmans with some supposed pre-prophetic '(I)Brahamiyya tradition. However, this reading is not internally consistent- beside giving scandal to orthodox Muslims (Azar is considered merely an Uncle or some other senior figure conventionally addressed as 'father')- though, no doubt, it furnishes a sort of second-order jouissance. Now, it is true that Fayzi was erudite enough to have intended not just this but even a third order reading which would be of the nature of a Hegelian synthesis,  but, the fact remains that, to establish his first order meaning, he has not used the word 'Brahman' here as a 'stock figure' signifying anything even remotely connected to the Barahima of Kalam. On the contrary, the only stock figures here are, on the one hand, the great mass of idolators, whom it would be pointless to differentiate since they all inherit Hell Fire, and, on the other, the devout Muslim who has shaken off the bondage of exoteric piety so thoroughly that his continued seeming of haecceity is verily that infernal holocaust, or refining fire, of all that illusorily separates him from indistinguishable union with the Godhead.

Setting aside philological question of historical probability, more especially because Keshavmurthy is writing for a mainly Hindu magazine audience with little knowledge or interest in the subject, let us consider what happens if we grant credence to the notion that Bedil has used the word 'Brahman', in the couplet under discussion, as a proxy for the phrase 'a votary of Natural Law and the sufficiency of human reason'.
In this case, if the Brahman does not slaughter the cow, it must be the case that the taboo in question has a wholly rational or scientific justification.
Now, it may be that Keshamurthy, as a person of Hindu origin, believes that a reasoning human being would not slaughter a cow. Yet, this budding savant went to St. Stephens and J.N.U and  now lives and teaches in Canada- a country where plenty of reasoning human beings are involved in the slaughter of cattle. Speaking generally, no opprobrium attaches to their profession. Scarcely anyone considers their actions 'makruh'.

If Keshavmurthy believes that Bedil thought cow slaughter was repugnant to Natural Law and Human Reason he would need to produce evidence. Even if he could do so, he would be dismissed as a Hindutva crank because no argument current in Bedil's day would hold water today because of our greatly expanded Scientific knowledge base.
The curious thing is that he has published his article in The Wire- a left-leaning Indian webzine- which accuses Narendra Modi's Govt. of using the widespread Indian ban on beef to harass and oppress minorities. Is Keshavmurthy actually a closet Hindu supremacist slyly subverting The Wire's editorial policy?
I'm pretty sure the answer is no.
So what is actually going on?
Let us look at Keshavmurthy's text which I give in italics, my remarks being in bold
Among the many Persian literary incarnations of the recalcitrantly prophecy-denying monotheist Brahman, the subtlest by far are those of the great Persian language poet of Delhi and Patna, Abdul Qadir ‘Bedil’ (1644-1720).  Is the Brahmin 'recalcitrantly denying' any prophetic injunction in this couplet? He is shown as slaughtering a cow- an action conformable with the injunctions of every Prophet venerated by Islam. Moreover, in Keshamurthy's view, his performance of this action is the condition for 'slaying the Lords of Lust' being permissible. If the votary of 'natural reason' does the same thing as what the Prophets have enjoined it is an argument to follow Religious injunctions faithfully. Clearly, on this view, 'slaying the Lords of Lust' is a supererogatory duty enjoined by Religion.
If Keshavmurthy is correct than the meaning of Bedil's couplet would be 'Slay the Lords of Lust, oh People of the Heart! Look, even the stupid Hindu- if he rises up to the position of a true Brahman as the term is used in our Arabic and Persian literary tradition- even he will be seen slaughtering his Holy Cow! You are not stupid and ignorant like the Hindus. If Faith won't guide you, at least use your brain! Slay the 'Lords of Lust'! Do it now! 

Keshavmurthy, it must be said, applies a different meaning to 'havas' - viz. 'crazed lust or madness'. Unfortunately, in English, 'crazed lust' may be of a fetishistic sort- the lover may want to copulate with the shoe belonging to the object of his pursuit while wholly avoiding her presence. By contrast, in Persian, though 'havas' can be a cause of such madness; by itself, it remains focused on Union whereas it is the beloved object which undergoes a dialectical change for some immanent Hegelian reason. It is true, that, thanks to this immanent dialectical process, physical Union may be sublated by something more perfect and metaphysical but Keshavmurthy is not interested in metaphysics or mystic soteriology.

Instead, Keshavmurthy offers this translation-
The killing of the crazed by the lover is not odious
If the Brahman stains his sacred thread crimson with cow’s blood.
Does this make any sense to an English speaking person? 
Does it conform to any known cultural or anthropological stereotype?
Have we heard of any type of magical ceremony or 'honor killing' of a sort where the lover gets to kill some crazy dude, without incurring odium, provided some Brahman or Shaman stains a thread with cow's blood?
No!
This isn't translation, it is crazy shit!
 How does our Professor justify writing such nonsense? 
His explanation is as follows-
The first line appears to permit the lover the killing of the crazed – here to be understood by ghazal convention as love-crazed – on the condition that the Brahman “stains his sacred thread crimson with cow’s blood”. But this is in fact an absurd condition, for it is culturally improbable, Bedil is implying, that the Brahman would do so. The negation in the first line therefore turns out to be an affirmation that it would be odious for the lover to kill the love-crazed. 
So, Bedil is saying 'don't kill love-crazed people if you are a lover unless Bhramans- or, indeed, the poet whose takhallus  (pen name) was Brahman- start killing cows.'
This raises the question, was it really the custom for lovers to go out killing the crazed in Bedil's time? Perhaps it was the policy of the Taliban or ISIS of that day. The Professor assumes we know this coz he covered it in his last lecture. What he is now telling us is that there was this guy called Bedil who opposed the practice by saying 'dudes chill. Don't kill crazy guys till the Brahman does such and such.'
Hey, I just saw on Wikipedia that them Afghans love Bedil.  We'd better get Donald Trump to quote this couplet to them rag-heads. That will stop them going round killing everybody. We just need to make sure those 'Brahmans' don't kill cows meanwhile. Hence, we've got to back Narendra Modi. Wow! This sure is a cool course! It just showed us how to sort out all the problems in Afghanistan!
In the Sufi code of the ghazal of Bedil’s age, the breaking of rules of social propriety by the divinely possessed lover was permitted.
What?! So, according to Sufism, the lover still gets to kill the crazed coz he's crazed himself? Damn, that sure is one fucking horrible Religion! Thankfully, our Prof. has found out that there was this guy called Bedil who wrote a couplet which will magically dissuade all them scary-ass towel-heads from killing all and sundry. Why was General Petraeus not informed of this great discovery? A lot of our G.I's wouldn't have come home in body-bags if he had known. Come to think of it, Professor dude, why didn't you just go all Nicholas Cage on the Taliban, like in the movie 'Army of One', and hang-glide over Afghanistan chanting this couplet of Bedil's through a megaphone?  Or is that what you are doing now? Well, how come it aint working Prof? Or have you just been bullshitting us all along?
But less apparent is an allusion to an elliptically told tale in verses 67-73 of ‘The Cow’, the second chapter of the Qur’an. Read alongside the commentary on them by Ibn Kathir, the Qur’an commentator of 14th century Damascus, the verses in question appear to refer to the Jews of Medina who failed to immediately heed Moses’s command that they do God’s bidding by slaughtering a cow.  Instead, they stubbornly first posed questions about its appearance and kind. Only when Moses had answered them did they slaughter it, “but they could hardly do it”. That they eventually heeded Moses nonetheless distinguishes them in the Qur’an as a people who accepted the prophet God sent them. The Brahman of Bedil’s verse stands in implicit contrast to the Medinese Jews by serving as a limit to prophecy, a limit the transgression of which is an absurd condition on which the Sufi may kill the love-crazed.
In Jewish law there was a provision that if the corpse of a murder victim was discovered in the vicinity of a settlement, then the local people were obliged to offer a cow in sacrifice and swear they had no hand in the killing. Obviously, this gave an incentive for local people to prevent or detect such crimes in their neighborhood.
The Quranic story adds the detail of a sacrifice of this sort done in a reluctant or hypocritical manner which resulted in the murdered man regaining the power of speech to accuse his assailant. This Jewish custom was not incorporated into Muslim law. 
 No Muslim commentator has ever suggested that the Jews of Medina were expelled for either sacrificing or not sacrificing a cow in obedience to their Religious Law. Nor is there any suggestion that they were expelled for worshipping a calf- golden or otherwise. Ibn Kathir does not say that it was the Medinese Jews who questioned Moses about the colour and type of cow to be slaughtered so as to take away the imputation of blood-guilt. No commentator has ever done so. Keshavmurthy is wrong to say- 'Read alongside the commentary on them by Ibn Kathir, the Qur’an commentator of 14th century Damascus, the verses in question appear to refer to the Jews of Medina who failed to immediately heed Moses’s command that they do God’s bidding by slaughtering a cow.'  He thinks that Prophet Muhammad believed Moses had once visited the Jews of Medina. There is no evidence for this notion at all. Ibn Kathir certainly does not attribute any such view to the Holy Quran. What his commentary brings out is the inefficacy of hypocritical or grudging adherence to Revealed Law. He says that there were no hypocrites among the Muslims during their early years in Medina because the community was weak and poor. However, following their military successes, hypocrisy and a grudging sort of outward compliance did become a problem. Ibn Kathir combats this spiritual evil by formulating a 'synteresis' like doctrine of 'Taqwa'. Essentially, those predestined to salvation have a tropism towards the Right Path which rises into consciousness through Quranic study in a manner which reconciles 'the Rational and the Real'. However, this is an essentially dialectical or dialogic argument and has nothing to do with 'Natural Law' or 'Sufficient Reason'.

Keshavmurthy may be pardoned for making a mistake about what the Quran, or its commentator, Ibn Kathir, actually said because he is writing here for a mainly Hindu audience uninterested in such matters. Furthermore, Hinduism doesn't have a concept like 'synteresis' or 'Taqwa' as reconciling 'Reason' and 'Revelation', or 'Athens and Jerusalem', precisely because its every Athens was also a Jerusalem, its every Aristotle also a Dharmic Acharya.  However, Keshavmurthy is of Hindu, Indian, origin, and thus his conclusion is not just ignorant and stupid but bizarrely so.  The 'Brahman of Bedil's verse' can't stand in 'implicit contrast' to the Medinese Jews (whom the Quran does NOT picture as killing a cow coz Moses told them to) 'by serving as a limit to prophesy'. Why? Well, the 'Brahman' was considered 'Kitabi' (i.e. following a Book) and as obeying laws handed down by Prophets. That's why they could gain 'dhimmi' (protected) status in Islamic Law. In other words, the Brahman only enjoyed 'dhimmi' status provided his actions were in conformity to his own Revealed Legal code. A Hindu King with the power to make lawful or customary something not in the Hindu Legal Code was considered by Islamic Jurists as not having created any binding precedent at all but merely to have exercised tyranny- istibdad- even if the law or custom was eminently rational or utilitarian. The British continued this practice, though individual Hindu jurists might object from time to time regarding particular cases, and the Indian Constitution has conferred autochthonous status on all such inherited law not specifically abrogated by Legislation. Thus, in deciding a case involving Hindu Law, the Court will disregard even an eminently rational or useful practice enforced by a particular Hindu potentate because it has not been properly incorporated into the corpus of relevant law.

Many of the readers of Keshavmurthy's article would be either Brahmans or knowledgeable about Brahmanism. What is Keshavmurthy getting at, what is the 'emic' message he is sending, by suggesting to them that 'Bedil's Brahman'- supposedly a votary of Natural Law and Sufficient Reason'- poses a 'limit to prophesy'?
Perhaps he is saying that the Brahminical code- which we Brahmins have thankfully abandoned- was actually super-rational and thus things like untouchability and the taboo on 'crossing the black water' were actually very reasonable and wholesome things justifiable by pure logic.
If so- the man is a moral imbecile and shouldn't not be allowed to teach in India because he is upholding a type of discrimination that is repugnant and illegal.
I don't believe this to be the case for even a moment.
Keshavmurthy is just confused, ignorant, and bad at framing arguments.
Still, it may be, a lot of people from an 'Arts' background' don't understand recent advances in Logic and thus are confused about the true relationship, or rather the absence of any connection, between Reason and Prophesy.
 If a guy says 'I'm a rationalist. I only believe on the basis of reason.' no curb is placed upon his reliance upon prophesy at all. There are some types of discourse- e.g. oneiroscopy- where belief is required for efficacy to be assured, precisely because of the private nature of the underlying signal. Being a public signal, Prophesy is not such a field because it can gain salience as a Schelling focal point or by a Rawlsian process of 'overlapping consensus' even if no one believes it.

Think of the 'Turing Oracle'.  Algorithmic Rationality itself proves there can be no limit to needful prophesy. Most dynamic processes aren't effectively computable yet our intuitions regarding their equlibria don't violate the principle of Sufficient Reason. Philosophically, we now think of Conventions as necessary Schelling focal solutions for co-ordination problems. These solutions will in general not be effectively computable,  or even precisely specifiable, yet they are of great utility to our burgeoning Knowledge Economy.
One the one hand, 'Belief' does not entail a 'conceptual tie to action'- because of problems of concurrency and preference revelation. On the other, Moore's paradox has no purchase because all 'facts' are known to be in the process of being falsified because every operator useful in discriminating quid juris from quid facti is necessarily non commutative in a specific way and thus builds Uncertainty into the epistemic system.

I imagine, Keshavmurthy's 'emic' reception, going forward, is more likely to be mediated by ideas familiar to Computer Scientists, not Philologists, because the nature of the Indian intelligentsia has changed in response to stagnation in the public sector, on the one hand, and a burgeoning I.T/ Fin Eng industry on the other.
Even if this were not the case, a couplet of Bedil- a Sunni Turk writing in a milieu where even Persian speaking Brahmans- like Chandrabhan 'Brahman'- were second class subjects- simply can't be received by any sane Indian as saying, essentially,- 'well, the Brahmins only believe in Natural Law. Thus, there is a limit to prophesy coz it is important to keep Brahmins on side'.

One final point, everybody knows Sufis can't make a practice of killing the love crazed coz, at least in poetry, they all spend so much time pretending to be love crazed themselves.  
So, they'd just end up slaughtering each other and would almost immediately, like the Circumcellions, disappear from the world.

Is there any way to redeem Keshavmurthy's binary of 'crazy Sufi/ rational Brahman' as applying to our sabak-e-hindi heritage? 
Sure!
Absolutely!
But that method has nothing to do with philology and everything to do with, as so often happens on this blog,  the theory of computational complexity.

Before saddling my favorite hobby horse, and riding off into a crepuscular horizon, let me first quote the truly interesting, the truly creative- for utterly arbitrary and irrelevant- portion of Keshavmurthy's brief article.
It is where Keshavmurthy reads 'havas' as actually being 'haus' (though this violates the rules of Persian prosody) in which case he can translate the couplet as-
The killing of night pasturers by the lover is not odious

If the Brahman stains his sacred thread crimson with cow’s blood.

Here, haus or ‘wandering at night, as cattle when pasturing’ alludes to a tale in verses 78-79 of the Qur’an’s chapter ‘The Prophets’. Read alongside Ibn Kathir’s amplification, the tale relates to a dispute between a sheep owner and an orchard owner. The sheep had wandered into the orchard and eaten the grapes. The prophet David adjudicated the resulting dispute, ruling that the sheep be given to the orchard owner. But his son Solomon, divinely inspired, proposed a more equitable judgment. 
What was the Solomonic judgment Keshavmurthy alludes to? How does it relate to the Brahman as a votary of 'Natural Law and Sufficient Reason?'
A guy with an orchard suffered a tort at the hands of some sheep belonging to some other guy. King David's solution was to hand over the offending animals to the orchard owner. Solomon's was different. He hands the orchard over to the shepherd and the sheep to the other guy. They are to swap back once the injury is made good.
On the face of it, Solomon's judgement is bad law, bad 'mechanism design' and utterly fucked in the head coz the orchard guy might not know how to look after sheep and the shepherd might be shite at horticulture.  However, if Solomon (as is commonly believed)
1) is interested in Justice
and
2) possesses all relevant information by some occult (i.e. not 'common knowledge' means)
then 
this is a superior 'Aumann correlated equilibrium' under certain, no doubt highly artificial, assumptions.
Thus, if both parties share an information set, have similar time preference, and are rational, then there can be an 'Aumann agreement' between them such that we know (thanks to a result from Maskin & Tirole) they immediately switch back to their original roles on the basis of an 'incomplete contract' without worrying about residuary control rights . This is a 'Coasian solution'. It is also, by the Myerson Satterthwaite theorem, the equilibrium solution, absent coercion, in a repeated game of a particular sort.

If 'Brahman', for sabak-e-hindi, means 'Super Rational guy', then he'd have hit on the Solomonic solution himself, despite the seeming problem of residuary control rights, just like this year's Econ Nobel Laureate, Oliver Hart, coz some Maskin & Tirole type argument would convince him. 

Nobel Laureate Aumann, as many economists will know, has shed light on the rationality of certain rules found in the Old Testament or which are known to have been applied by the Sanhedrin.  If Brahman means guys who are rational, then there must be Aumann agreement among them to observe those rules even though they don't believe in prophesy.
Things like the Turing Oracle or Gibbard's 'Revelation Principle' are very useful which is why rational people use them.
Okay, full disclosure, I'm as stupid as shit but still think I'm a Brahman coz under Knightian Uncertainty (for which Maskin & Tirole don't actually have a workaround coz it is regret minimizing to have both incomplete preferences and an ontologically dysphoric (i.e. featuring negative probabilities) world view) worthless shitheads like me actually provide a specific sort of hedge or desirable type of capacitance diversity.
Fuck it.
I think I'm drunk now. 
In any case, mathematically, I'm out of my depth.
Let me go back to beating up on Keshavmurthy. 
This is what he says-
“The killing of night pasturers” then alludes to the killing of the sheep or the sheep owner. 
WTF, Keshavmurthy dude!
Neither David nor Solomon nor any Judge or Religious Authority in the history of the Universe has ever said that animals or their owners should be killed just coz someone's orchard or garden or whatever suffered damage.
There was a time when medieval Christendom had a concept of 'deodand' for domesticated animals. So if you fell in love with my sheep coz it was making eyes at you and you fucked it so vigorously you keeled over dead, it might happen that my sheep would be declared 'deodand'. It might even be tried and put to death the way that wolves were tried and put to death. But I would not be killed unless there was proof I had maliciously set my sheep to ensnare you in a fatal erotic plot.
'Such killing would be odious because the condition for its permissibility – “If the Brahman stains his sacred thread crimson with cow’s blood” – is a sheer improbability. 
Fuck off!
Killing the guy who owns an animal coz it did some damage is odious coz... it just fucking is okay? It is not odious coz the Rabbi hasn't yet bitten into his bacon sarnie, or because the Brahmin hasn't yet killed a cow, or the Pope hasn't yet fucked Trump to death on Fox News.

In fairness to Keshavmurthy, he has one final translation of Bedil's couplet to offer. Let us see if is as foolish as his previous attempts.
A third translation:
The killing of intellectuals by the lover is not odious
If the Brahman stains his sacred thread crimson with cow’s blood.
Here, vocalising the word as hūs or “intellect” lets us read the first line as permitting the lover-mystic the killing of “intellectuals” – also translatable as “lords of the mind” – on the absurd condition that the Brahman stain his sacred thread crimson with cow’s blood. That is, we may read it as forbidding him such killing. On a superficial reading, the couplet is then not saying much more than that Sufis, conventionally understood as abandoning reason in their amorous frenzy, must still let men of the mind be.
OMG! Why are you writing in a webzine mainly read by Hindus that Sufism is compatible with killing intellectuals? How fucking stupid are you? Even the most rabid Islamophobe has not gone that far!
But a more interesting if less obvious sense catches our attention when we recall that, perhaps unlike the early Muslim and Jewish theologians, Bedil who was surrounded by his Hindu students in Persian poetry also knew the word “Brahman” in its Upanishadic sense as “universal Self”. What’s more, he wrote in a period when Persian-language poets in North India also composed poetry in Urdu and routinely enriched the poetic practice Amir Khusro inaugurated of bi- or tri-lingual punning. He and his readers would thus have seen or heard in the second syllable of “Brahman” – man – both the Persian word for “I” as well as the Sanskrit-Hindi-Urdu word for “mind”. Finally, the absence of a definite article in the original Persian lets us translate the second line thus: “If Brahman stains its sacred thread crimson with cow’s blood”. Reading the couplet with an attention to these puns and the eliminability of the definite article lets us propose that the second line explicitly states the absurdity of the ego ever relinquishing its heretical self-worship. It is on this absurd condition, again, that the lover is permitted the killing of lords of the “mind” or “ego” – which is to say that he is forbidden such killing.
WTF?! Are you completely bonkers? Sufism, like Saivism, says a human being can gain gnosis in this life- i.e. a 'jivanmukta' can exist. That's why a properly declared Jihad or Dharam Yuddha or a Crusade is not incumbent on at least one possible believer in every Sect. Why? Because even if the Creator caused you to be born subject to a certain doxastic or deontological 'artificial reason', there is no logical entailment of a duty to kill anybody at all because at least one possible person in the same situation is not bound by it.
I have not addressed, for reasons of space, yet other translations that result from the grammatical ambiguity of the genitive construction ‘qatl-e’, translatable as “killing of” and “killing by”. Nor have I spoken of this couplet’s place in the structure of the ghazal that contains it. I will conclude by noting that it is not only the figure of the Brahman that makes this verse continuous with the earliest Islamic theological figurations of the Brahman. It is also its syllogistic structure: the couplet’s conditional assent to a certain action recalls what Jalaluddin al-Suyuti, the renowned Arabic philologist of 16th century Egypt called al-madhab al-kalāmi, the construction of logical proofs in the manner of kalām or rational theology, a manner of speaking that he said was found in the utterances of prophets.
Fuck is wrong with you, Keshavmurthy? Have you never heard of Jorgensen's dilemma- viz. the superficial resemblance of ALL imperative statements or deontic arguments to alethic ones? Do you really not know that Islam took the bull by the horns long ago by establishing a firm 'insha/khabar' distinction which is securely embedded in the ontological hiatus between 'alam al amr' & 'alam al khalq'?

Is Bedil claiming the mantle of prophecy and implicitly refusing that of poets who, as the Qur’an says, “say what they do not do”? 
Do you really not know what mystic station Bedil was claiming?
How fucking illiterate are you?
If so, is this claim to prophetic unambiguity implicit in the couplet’s syntax not contradicted by the ambiguities we have just uncovered in its single words? Can we read Bedil today with the recognition that it was once possible to experience the emotional intensity of faith even as you took pleasure in the shimmering ambiguity of the signs of religious difference?
Keshavmurthy, by your meretricious misprision, you have merely added noise to signal.
That aint Empson ambiguity.
It's just random, dude.
Oh!
Fuck me!
Just realized something.
This fucker Keshavmurthy just pranked me.
I sent him one of my books.
This ridiculous article is his revenge.

Okay Professor dude.
You win.
You can write more stupidly about Bedil than even I have about Ghalib.
Bloody Stephanians!
Even this small prize they have snatched from me.



3 comments:

  1. 'Sarah Stroumsa, a scholar of early Islamic-Jewish theology, has argued that early Muslim-Jewish theological debates were shaped by encounters with Brahmans and that these debates were conducted solely on the shared ground of logic, avoiding reference to theological doctrines specific to each side.'
    Actually, Strousma makes a far more modest claim- viz that the 'Barahima' might correspond or be consistent with some Indian religious group- though not Hindu Brahmans and that it may be that there was some interaction at an early date for which present textual evidence does not exist.
    However, the 'Barahmia' referred to in Kalam polemics is not the Brahman of Persian literature. He is not a philosopher, certainly not a 'free-thinker', but, rather, an idolator and the perpetrator of pious frauds, like the Somnath priests Sa'adi claims to witnessed, or else an astrologer or reader of auguries.
    The writer of the article is indeed making an absurd claim- viz. that free debate was a feature of the interaction between Hinduism and Islam and that this remained the case in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Thus his 'Sufi' opposes both cow-slaughter and the killing of intellectuals- a curious interpretation of a straightforward mystical couplet which means- 'on the path of love- slay your own holy cow, even that mad passion which impels you onward.'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suppose traders from different religions might have met and discussed things freely in places where the Ruler hadn't yet affirmed a sectarian allegiance. Perhaps, not being monks or priests themselves, they took a rationalist view. Still, this would have little to do with actual Brahmans- who, typically, were not traders by vocation.
      However, the views of traders as to what type of laws there should be would influence revenue maximizing potentates when it came to compiling legal codes. If traders from 'heretical' sects gained a reputational advantage by sending the costly signal of non-conformity in religious matters, it may be that there would be a 'family resemblance' between different heresies or trading groups seeking to differentiate themselves on doxastic grounds.
      It may be as Benjamin Jokisch has suggested, that the Barahima were an Islamic variant of the Paulicians. Such is the paucity of information in this regard that almost any conjecture is equally likely. It Stroumsa is right about a link to Buddhism, it might not be Indian Buddhism at all but some sort of Iranian or Turnanian more or less Manichean version of it.
      Even if Persian had somehow identified the Barahima with the Indian Brahmins (in which case there would now be no controversy on this issues), still it would have been abandoned by Akbar's time because actual Persian speaking Brahmins were available at Court to refute the notion that their beliefs were such as were to be found in Shahrastani or Al Warraq.
      Keshavmurthy might as well have written 'Since Columbus, the native people of America have been identified as India. This identification has been passed on from Geography to Literature with the result that the figure of the Indian has congealed into a stock character. Thus, Dr. Aziz, in E.M Forster's Passage to India is depicted as trying to scalp a European squaw.'

      Delete
    2. Actually, Akbar's policies were probably counter-productive! There were 'rationalist' thinkers at that time- like Mullah Jaunpuri- but the focus there was on pruning back msytic or metaphysical speculation- e.g Mir Damad's peculiar theory of Time or an equally strange (perhaps less so, since the development of Quantum Mechanics!) notions re. the primordial form of matter (hayula). Brahmans did not contribute anything to this. Jesuits were more outspoken- but this provoked a backlash.
      I could not comment on 'heresies' and 'trading groups'. It may be that discriminative taxes on traders led to unreported activity which would have to be between parties who trusted each other more. Some Muslims (Ismailis) certainly did disguise themselves as Hindu- perhaps that was the motivation.
      Al Warraq is not important for Indian Islam. Shahrastani's work- which mentions the Barahima as a type of Hindu- did draw on the kalam literature and has some importance for jurisprudence. I am not aware of any relation between the Barahima beliefs and Paulicians.
      I am not aware of any Indian writer who has used the term 'Barahima' in connection with the beliefs of any indigenous sect. Some schools of Jurisprudence- e.g Farangi Mahal- were 'rationalist'but no one thought there was a limit to prophesy least of all because some non-Muslims denied it. There was a controversy about 'Imkan'- is God bound by His own Revelation- but no one mentioned the Barahima or the Sabaeans etc. in the context.
      It is not clear to me what point the author was trying to make. Probably he was trying to say that there was once 'an Age of Faith' which was genuinely pluritopic in Mignolo's sense. The problem is that if Indian Brahmans were not subjected to some epistemic violence, they could have challenged and changed the reception of 'Barahima', if that term did indeed have the sort of salience the author claims.

      Delete