Internet

The Hajj: Now With Free Internet Access!

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mecca

Can't quite come up with the verse of the Koran you need for an argument? Wondering about the Prophet's views on proper attire for the hajj? Want to send mom a snap of you fulfilling your once-in-a-lifetime religious obligation?

For the next couple of weeks in Mecca, pilgrims coming for the hajj will be able to Wikipedia answers to those questions and send email in a flash thanks to a temporary Wi-Fi mesh network covering much of the holy city.

Hajjis, as the pilgrims are called, come to the city in Saudi Arabia from around the world for several days of religious rituals. More than 2 million gather each year. A network of about 70 meshed routers from Tropos Networks has been set up to provide free Internet connectivity, according to Denise Barton, director of marketing at Tropos. Users only have to register before using it. Barton believes it is the first public Wi-Fi network set up for the Hajj.

How awesome is the modern world that those first three sentences appear next to each other? To review: Practitioners of an ancient religion visit a chunk of black stone (possibly a meteorite) more ancient even than their own faith. After a few times around the old Kaaba, they can retire and check their email. Outstanding.

Via Julian Sanchez

NEXT: Back to Mississippi

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  1. Practitioners of an ancient religion visit a chunk of black stone…

    You just can’t make up stuff like this.

  2. The Black Stone was white, but after being touched by menstruating women turned black. The fact that some people believe this in today’s world is… not that surprising, I guess.

  3. Is it just me or does that stone/frame combination look kinda like a… ya know….

  4. Can’t quite come up with the verse of the Koran you need for an argument? Wondering about the Prophet’s views on proper attire for the hajj? Want to send mom a snap of you fulfilling your once-in-a-lifetime religious obligation?

    LOL! Excellent KWM! Very well done 🙂

  5. How many people will die this year?

  6. The Black Stone was white, but after being touched by menstruating women turned black.

    First time ever for me to hear that! Where do you get that from?

    FWIW, Muslims believe it has darkened in proportion to humans’ sins.

  7. Episiarch,

    That was a cheap shot!

  8. “John | December 19, 2007, 4:05pm | #

    “the religious aspects of the holiday”

    Then make fun of fasting during Ramadan or the elaborate dinners Muslims have at the end of each day, or Hadj industry that is set up in Mecca every year, or how more than few people are trampled to death every year during the Hadj (gee something tells me REason would have a few snarky things to say if people were rountinely trampled during the Pope’s Easter Mass). I don’t care. Just do something. Until you are willing to do that, lay the fuck off of Christians for while, okay?”

    I just want it known, I get results!! My compliments to Reason.

  9. John-David, Ah I see. It is mentioned in that wiki entry. However, I have to say that I have never heard of that stupid explanation ever.

  10. … not that the other explanation is any more rational 😉

  11. … not that the other explanation is any more rational 😉

    Ali, as you know, I mock all religions with gusto. Putting that aside, it is always refreshing to read a meember of the faithful denouncing the sillier superstitions of their faith.

  12. Now that this is outta the way, can we get the fuck back on the christians again?

  13. J sub D:

    Ha! But I did not denounce it (to make a silly joke out of this statement: I wish to keep my head were it is 😉 — it is okay to make jokes, I guess). I said it for what it is. This is part of the faith. Faith does not have to always be rational. In fact, it is not by its very definition, though some/much of it can be rationalized!

  14. Oh.. and if any one is curious about what Lord Acton said about Muslims in his book the History of Freedom, visit my blog (first post as of today).

  15. John, I don’t think KMW was poking fun. It looks to me as though she thinks it’s kinda funny, but pretty cool.

    Or is my sarcasmometer on the fritz again?

  16. When Atlas shrugged, I figured it would only be a matter of time before Satan got stoned.

  17. I figured it would only be a matter of time before Satan got stoned.

    And I still can’t reconcile belief in Satan and the claim of Monotheism. Satan is obviously more powerful than Demeter. She was a pagan “Olympic God”. Why isn’t Satan called a “Abrahamic God”?

    I’ve asked educated theists this question and never received a satisfactory answer.

  18. I admit it’s a fair question, J sub. Personally, I split the difference by thinking of God as paradoxically both one and many, if that makes any sense to anyone else.

  19. “Can’t quite come up with the verse of the Koran you need for an argument?”

    Does the Koran mention if Mohammad did any miracles or did he just wield a sword?

  20. By the way, though, Satan comes off as almost a figure of comic relief in the Bible. He always loses-especially if you don’t count the serpent in Genesis as Satan (Genesis itself apparently doesn’t).

  21. Hajji

    Wasn’t he Johnny Quest’s faithful side kick / adopted brother? Wasn’t he Indian BTW? Oh, that…never mind.

  22. “John, I don’t think KMW was poking fun. It looks to me as though she thinks it’s kinda funny, but pretty cool.

    Or is my sarcasmometer on the fritz again?”

    She really isn’t poking too much fun. It is hardly a drunken Hitch comparing Chistmas to North Korean politics, but I am in a charitable mood today.

  23. “Why isn’t Satan called a “Abrahamic God”?”

    Because Satan isn’t a god; he just wishes he were.

    And that Demeter was a pagan Olympic “god” isn’t remotely germane to the discussion.

  24. And that Demeter was a pagan Olympic “god” isn’t remotely germane to the discussion.

    Really? The definition od “God” isn’t germane? Okay. It’s all clear now Pastor John, Thanks a whole lot.

  25. Pastor John,
    I’m inclined to think that polytheism, at least in some disguised, rationalized form, will always be irresistible to humans.

    For that reason, I acknowledge the fairness of J sub D’s question.

  26. What? A post about Muslims and know one’s shown up to berate us for not being afraid of cyberattacks if there’s wireless in Mecca. For shame, bedwetters, for shame.

    (Maybe the trolls are all attending the birth of WEISKOBOLD’s immaculate conception of the troll messiah… the solstice grows near, the stars are right…)

  27. “It’s all clear now Pastor John, Thanks a whole lot.”

    Glad to have been of service.

  28. Ali, sorry but all religions are stupid. Yours too. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a good guy.

    Isn’t the Holy Trinity inherently polytheistic? And the saints are the lesser pantheon?

  29. Brian,

    Satan comes off as an almost workman like figure in Job. This scene in chapter one looks like something out of The Godfather with Satan playing Luca Brazi.

    Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

    7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

    8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

    9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?

    10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.

    11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

    12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.”

  30. JsubD wrote: “I’ve asked educated theists this question and never received a satisfactory answer.”

    The question is kind of meaningless unless you define Satan. The conception of Satan has changed dramatically over the centuries, and varies among religions and sub-sects. Many of those concepts of Satan really have little basis in the Bible.

    The BBC radio show In Our Time had a show on the history of the devil that was pretty good. It’s in the archive on the site, and is streamable as realaudio.

  31. “The Black Stone was white, but after being touched by menstruating women turned black. The fact that some people believe this in today’s world is… not that surprising, I guess.”

    As opposed to the Old Testament rules that a man couldn’t use a chair on which a menstruating woman had sat, or sleep in the same bed, etc, etc.

    I’m sure someone, somewhere still follows such rules.

  32. “How many people will die this year?”

    Actually, I heard they made some changes in some troublesome locations to ease traffic flow and reduce the likelihood of trampling incidents.

    For instance, at the spot where the pilgrims ‘stone Satan’, they rearranged things so multiple groups of pilgrims can do so from multiple locations. Or something to that effect. Anyway, I gather the approach to that E-ticket ride was one of the troublesome funnel points, so they fixed it.

  33. Yes, I get your Godfather analogy, John. 🙂

  34. This scene in chapter one looks like something out of The Godfather with Satan playing Luca Brazi.

    And verily, his first child WAS a masculine child.

    Point to John for the Godfather reference.

  35. “And may the next Messiah be a masculine child…and may the next Messiah be a masculine child…” LOL

  36. Synchronicity! It’s a whatever-you-do-this-time-of-year miracle!

  37. Rand bless us, every one!

  38. Thank you for inviting me to your temptation of Job…wince…one the day of your temptation of Job.

  39. The conception of Satan has changed dramatically over the centuries, and varies among religions and sub-sects. Many of those concepts of Satan really have little basis in the Bible.

    I’ve heard Satan described as an allegory for our base instincts. That is, Satan doesn’t really exist. I’m OK with that. It’s like theists who discount the flood in Genesis. It didn’t happen we know that, so it must be allegorical.

    The working definition for this discussion is an immortal being who possesses supernatural powers that affect our lives. Tempting someone (emotional manipulation from a distance) is included in supernatural power. How is a being like that, if he exists, NOT a god?

  40. Ali, I am not Muslim myself but am VERY glad a blog such as yours exists. Thank you and I wish you the best of luck in promoting the philosophy of liberty among Islamic people. I truly and sincerly thank you.

  41. Tempting someone (emotional manipulation from a distance) is included in supernatural power. How is a being like that, if he exists, NOT a god?

    So the models on the TV that give you a stiffy are gods now?

  42. re: Godfather – Would that mean that Barzini is Pontius Pilate?

  43. So the models on the TV that give you a stiffy are gods now?

    No, you theologically challenged individual. Television is the God. It’s immortal, the modals aren’t. 😉

  44. It’s immortal, the modals aren’t. 😉

    Everybody can should must might learn the difference between a model and a modal.

    Sorry. Punch me in the teeth.

  45. Everybody can should must might learn the difference between a model and a modal.

    Sorry. Punch me in the teeth.

    POW!

    How do you know he wasn’t talking about a modal window?

  46. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a modal window.

    That’s why I now find myself with my teeth knocked out, lying on my back over shards of modal glass. Ouch! Cue the heroes’ theme music! I’m foiled again!

  47. How awesome is the modern world that those first three sentences appear next to each other?

    No more awesome than a Japanese company (whose employees are mostly Shinto) providing the funds for the restoration of the Sistine Chapel, which work was made possible by scientists whose words were on the Index.

  48. Everybody can should must might learn the difference between a model and a modal.

    Brian Sorgatz, You are advised touse your grammer and spell checkers for a couple of weeks. 😉

  49. BTW, as far as Muslims are concerned, the structure that is the Kaaba means very little. It has been torn down and rebuild several times in history.

  50. Somewhere right now a hacker is trying to figure out how to place Mohammed the Teddy Bear
    pop-up ads whenever a pilgrim logs in.

  51. I’m sure someone, somewhere still follows such rules.

    sure. a bunch of them live in brooklyn.

  52. As opposed to the Old Testament rules that a man couldn’t use a chair on which a menstruating woman had sat, or sleep in the same bed, etc, etc.

    I’m sure someone, somewhere still follows such rules.

    They’re called Orthodox Jews.

  53. JsubD,

    How is a being like that, if he exists, NOT a god?

    I believe your best source for this would be John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Of course, you can also go with J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.

    There is no reason to call all spiritual, non-human, powerful beings gods. There are more classes of being recognized. The concept of monotheism in the Abrahamic religions can comfortably allow for God to have created many classes of being with various powers.

  54. So the models on the TV that give you a stiffy are gods now?

    I could worship at that altar.

  55. Does the Koran mention if Mohammad did any miracles . . . ?

    Don’t know if he did any miracles, but he did some little girls.

  56. The concept of monotheism in the Abrahamic religions can comfortably allow for God to have created many classes of being with various powers.

    IOW, We can rhetorically split that hair. Does praying to something make it a God in the eye of the petitioner? Being most familiar with the Roman Catholic flavor of Christianity, I do remember –

    Hail Mary,
    Full of Grace,
    The Lord is with thee.
    Blessed art thou among women,
    and blessed is the fruit
    of thy womb, Jesus.
    Holy Mary,
    Mother of God,
    pray for us sinners now,
    and at the hour of death.
    Amen.

    We won’t eevn discuss the saints.

  57. JsubD,

    I believe that the power of Mary is seen as interceding with God on the prayer’s behalf.

    So, no, it doesn’t seem to require that the petitioner see it as a god, imho.

  58. Catholics pray to mary and the saints because they want her/them to intercede on their behalf. Protestants don’t feel that that is nessecary.

    My christian belief is that there is only 1 God, with 3 “persons” known as the Trinity. A human has eyes and hands and ears but that does not make it multiple people.

    Also, in regards to Satan, Satan was the cheif angel of God- he rebelled against God due to jealousy. He is not God, nor a “god” (in the poyltheistic sense), because he is not the creator or soverign like God is. The Snake was conrolled by Satan. God only removed his “hedge” of protection around Job to test him, which was to assert that Job was indeed a true follower of God.

    I also believe that you can’t rationally believe in the universe and not believe in a god of some kind.

  59. Protestants don’t feel that that is nessecary. [sic]

    What does “no one comes to the father except through me” and “pray like this” mean to those people? Obviously not as much as their cult of ancestor worship.

  60. The catholic church doesn’t believe in the “bible alone” doctrine that holds that the bible is enough for religous propreity.

    They hold traditon as important as the bible, which I find to be rediculous.

    I like the wesleyan quadralteral when it comes to doctine:

    Scripture – the Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments)
    Tradition – the two millennia history of the Christian Church
    Reason – rational thinking and sensible interpretation
    Experience – a Christian’s personal and communal journey in Christ

  61. *by “Bible Only” i mean Sola Scriptura, which holdsthat the bible is the FINAL authority on doctrine, which the quadrilateral subscribes to.

  62. I also believe that you can’t rationally believe in the universe and not believe in a god of some kind.

    Why not? We can observe the universe. Solipsism aside, its existence is patently obvious to everyone. Equating the belief in something backed by such overwhelming and ubiquitous evidence with a belief not backed by any evidence is hardly my idea of rational.

    I could just as easily (and accurately) say you can’t rationally believe in the existence of my garage and not believe in the invisible dragon that lives within it.* It doesn’t help my case any if I further assert that the mere existence of my garage implies that there must, in fact, be a dragon inside. Claiming the dragon exists is bad enough in that I’m simply making a non-falsifiable assertion with no evidence to support it, but to go further and illogically claim the existence of one implies the existence of the other just compounds the nonsense.

    * Invisible dragon analogy borrowed from Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

  63. Many people talk about the need to reform Islam. Now you can stop talking and start helping.

    With the help of our readers we went through the Koran and removed every verse that we believe did not come from Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. However, it is possible that we missed something, and we could use your help. If you find verses in the reformed version of the Koran that promote violence, divisiveness, religious or gender superiority, bigotry, or discrimination, please let us know the number of the verse and the reason why it should be removed. Please email your suggestions to koran-AT-reformislam.org.

    When we finish editing process, we would like to publish Reform Koran in as many languages as possible. If you could help with translation or distribution of the Reform Koran, please email us at koran-AT-reformislam.org. If you could provide financial support, please visit our support page.

    In Memoriam of Aqsa Parvez.

    http://www.reformislam.org/reform.php

  64. Well Mr. Courts, in order for the universe to exist it must have a cause, aka a “god”. (argument from universal causation)

    Rather than assert that a god exists because the universe must have a cause, you are simply stating two arguments “my garage exists” and “this dragon exists” without any rational corrolation.

    There is a difference.

  65. As Adler put it: (courtesy wikipedia)

    The existence of an effect requiring the concurrent existence and action of an efficient cause implies the existence and action of that cause.
    The cosmos as a whole exists.
    The existence of the cosmos as a whole is radically contingent (meaning that it needs an efficient cause of its continuing existence to preserve it in being, and prevent it from being annihilated, or reduced to nothing).
    If the cosmos needs an efficient cause of its continuing existence, then that cause must be a supernatural being, supernatural in its action, and one the existence of which is uncaused, in other words, the Supreme Being, or God.

  66. Well Mr. Courts, in order for the universe to exist it must have a cause, aka a “god”.

    First, this is again simply an assertion. There is nothing that requires the universe to have a “cause” besides your saying so.

    Second, even if we accept for the sake of argument your totally unsupported claim that the universe does indeed need a cause, and that cause is a god, then that leaves the question of what caused this god. And of course whatever caused your god also must have a cause, and so on.

    So in the end with your line of argument you end up with either an infinite series of causes which can hardly be called a “god” at all in any meaningful way, or you are forced to accept that something somewhere can simply exist without a cause in which case you’ve just undermined your entire rationale for “god” in the first place. Either way, the observed existence of the universe does not imply the existence of a god.

  67. NA

    Supplemental to Brian Courts adept point re the infinite regress implicit in the “cause” argument, I would suggest you read any good popular summary of quantum mechanics. “Cause” is meaningless in the quantum universe.

    Your Adler quote is a classic example of a circular argument where the conclusion is defined in the premise.

  68. Well, im not a quantum physicist, but I can say that if a being is in soverign power over the universe, it needn’t be bound by its laws. So if this entity does exist, then it does not need a cause for it itslef created and is independent of our universal laws.

    Also, if this being is independent of our universe, then to try and disprove its existence is impossible.
    (That’s beside the point)
    But let me understand, are you saying that not every event/effect has a cause in our universe? Isn’t that a bit backwards? What next, are we to believe in spontaneous generation?

  69. But let me understand, are you saying that not every event/effect has a cause in our universe?

    Dr. T could answer this better than I, but here goes:

    At the quantum scale, events are random, insofar as we can determine. i.e, The successive state has no direct relationship with the pre-existing state. There is no cause-and-effect relationship between them.

    However, every state is limited by the probability of the state arising, defined in terms of the entropy of the system. It is the sum of the probabilities which gives rise to the perception of cause and effect.

    For example, for each particle in your body, there is a probability that it is in a particular place at any given time. The probability that it will be at some other place at the next point in time can be determined by its entropy. The successive place where that particle will be is most likely to be near the point where it was in the initial state. However, there is a possibility that the successive point will be some arbitrary distance from the initial point: one picometer or one kilometer away. The probability of it being at the successive point drops off very fast with increasing distance, but there remains a possibility that the successive point will be one kilometer away.

    The probability of a one kilometer change is so small that, expressed as a decimal fraction, the number of zeros between the decimal point and the first significant figure would fill the entire observable universe many times over, but the possibility does exist in quantum mechanics.

    That is just for one particle. Taking it as a sum over the ~10^30 particles in your body, the probability of you vanishing from where you are and reappearing the next instant one kilometer away is infinitesimal.

    Nevertheless, it is possible that this could occur. There would be no reason or cause that it happened, but it could occur.

    IOW, random, causeless events are possible.

    At the quantum scale, every event appears to be random. At the macroscopic scale you and I live in, events appear to be determined, but only because of the sum of a vast number of probabilities.

  70. Aresen,

    You may find this interesting…a quantum causality review:

    http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00003229/01/SuarezCausalInference.pdf

  71. ali.. another Muslim libertarian here! (i think, unless there is an initiation rite)

    interesting blog yours.

    I think libertarianism is politically expedient in the Muslim world, where interpretations of Sharia (or atleast “Islamic” law) are drastically different. Fine, live by whatever law you want to live by. If your views are shared by enough people, you wouldnt need to legislate that public transport not play music, or billboards not feature gawdily dressed women (as was the case in a province of Pakistan recently). It will become infeasible, economically.

    A cool example of this I saw in Karachi (the liberal heathen city of Pakistan) was me being disbarred from a mall, since Sunday was family day (read: no single guys allowed harassing escorted women). Fair enough, private property, your right to do so.

    Wholesale redefinition of sharia will never be acceptable to most Muslims, including myself.

  72. Aresen,

    As to causality, I was tempted to address the fact that, at the very least, it is not something that can just be assumed to have a clear, unambiguous physical meaning in all contexts. But ultimately, I figured it wasn’t necessary to bring that up in order to address the argument at hand, and given all the philosophical and scientific interpretations (e.g. in quantum mechanics it is going to be dependent on one’s preferred interpretation) that it seemed like a hopelessly complicated issue to raise.

    But there’s even a more important objection to causality. When we’re talking about “cause” within the universe, whatever one’s interpretation of quantum theory, there is no reason to assume that the same concept of “cause” would exist in an extra-universal theory of cause and effect necessary for the argument that was given. The laws of physics that we attempt to get at with theories such as quantum physics and relativity, explain things within the universe. If you want to assume those laws do apply outside the universe (whatever that means) in order for your chosen interpretation of causality to hold, then you’re also stuck with the fact that those same laws now explain the extra-universal space so well as to leave little room for an extra-universal god of the type he seems determined to find evidence for. On the other hand, if you accept that the laws of physics tell us nothing about this extra-universal space then your causality theories are also gone so the argument fails.

    As for Adler’s argument above, in step 3 he simply assumes, albeit with a lot of obfuscatory scientific-sounding language, that the universe needs a “cause”. It’s much like the ID’ers who use scientific sounding terms to try to hide the fact that their argument entirely rests on the simple assertion that x is just too complicated to have evolved.

    Further, his conclusion is just more assuming what he wants to prove. He says that whatever “caused” the universe must be both supernatural and not in need of any cause itself – hence God! Well, how convenient. So now we have a universe that needs a cause because he says so, caused by a supernatural being, because he says so, which doesn’t need a cause, because he says so.

    Look, if you want to believe some god exists outside of the laws of the universe, fine by me, but don’t pretend to use the laws of physics and/or logic, which you claim this god to be outside of, to try to deduce its existence. It’s nonsense. You can’t have it both ways – using scientific (sounding) arguments when it suits you and then dismissing them as not applicable to a god when it becomes problematic. Just admit that a belief in god is not based on any evidence, cannot be scientifically tested, and will never be proved one way or the other. Of course, I realize that if you do that, it gets much harder to distinguish your god from my invisible dragon, but oh well… I still have faith in my dragon.

  73. might be nitpicking here, and wholly uninteresting to readers, but Kaba isnt a chunk of black stone (the cube structure is covered with black cloth, not a black stone itself). It houses a black stone though, but the stone’s significance is completely different from the Kaba’s, it is infact much less significant. I’ve never heard the menstruating women turning the stone black idea either, the turning black through man’s sins is whats commonly said.

    Heres a relatively reliable reading (a cleric’s answer to a specific question about the stone’s origin and significance)

    http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1124781357727&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Hajj_Umra/HajjE/HajjE

    Probably the most authentic

  74. Brian Courts

    Good points.

    One thing you mentioned struck a chord:
    On the other hand, if you accept that the laws of physics tell us nothing about this extra-universal space then your causality theories are also gone so the argument fails.

    In one of the popular articles I read about extra dimensions, the writer mentioned that, if there was more than one time dimension, causality could not operate.

    Neu Mejican

    Thanks, but WAY WAY over my head. I’m an interested layman at about the Physics 200 level, not a doctoral fellow. That’s why I would have preferred Dr T. to answer.

  75. And while they are checking their email, they can do some internet research on how Mohammed had sex with a nine year old, slaughtered those who didn’t agree with him, demonized the jews, and called for the enslavement of all those who didn’t “convert” to Islam.
    They can also look up the latest news on their co-religionists who burn down newspaper buildings for publishing cartoons or news about beauty pageants, kill nuns in retaliation at the pope quoting a 500 year old book, sentencing women to 200 lashes for being a victim of a gang rape. They can also get the latest info on the most backward, oppressive regimes in the world, the majority of which, coincidentally, are muslim. And they can check the progress of the case against Mark Steyn in Canada as well.

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