September 19/20: Peoples of the Books (let's blog two today)

Note to Muslim fanatics: please don't kill me. Note to Disney lawyers: ditto.

As it turns out, yesterday's reading (Don Quixote), and today's (Koran), both partake of that wonderful cocktail -- fire, books, and religion:

‘Yet, on mine honesty,’ replied the curate, ‘his father’s goodness shall nothing avail him. Take this book, old mistress, and open the window, throw it down into the yard, and let it lay the foundation of our heap for the fire we mean to make.’

Do they envy man for what God has given of His grace? We have given to Abraham’s people the Book and wisdom, and we have given them a mighty kingdom. And of them are some who believe therein, and of them are some who turn from it, but Hell is flaming enough for them.
Verily, those who disbelieve in our signs, we will broil them with fire; whenever their skins are well done, then we will change them for other skins, that they may taste the torment. Verily, God is glorious and wise.
I hope that it will not be considered terribly Eurocentric if I go with Cervantes' bumbling enforcers over the white-hot holy book, if I prefer the curate-cum-critic:
therefore, taking eight of them together, she [an old woman] threw them all out of the window, and returning the second time, thinking to carry away a great many at once, one of them fell at the barber’s feet, who, desirous to know the title, saw that it was The History of the famous Knight Tirante the White. ‘Good God!’ quoth the curate, with a loud voice, ‘is Tirante the White here? Give me it, gossip; for I make account to find in it a treasure of delight, and a copious mine of pastime.
To the Koran's how-to-treat-your-woman advice:
Men stand superior to women in that God hath preferred some of them over others, and in that they expend of their wealth: and the virtuous women, devoted, careful (in their husbands’) absence, as God has cared for them. But those whose perverseness ye fear, admonish them and remove them into bed-chambers and beat them; but if they submit to you, then do not seek a way against them; verily, God is high and great.
In fact, controlling for the differences in dogma, culture, etc., you might see the two readings as pointing out that the flame of purity inevitably becomes something just a fire you entertain yourself by. People can't live like fanatics forever; they are always going to be tripped up by some romance or other:
‘This book,’ quoth the barber, opening of another, ‘is The Twelve Books of the Fortunes of Love, written by Anthony Lofraso, the Sardinian poet.’ ‘By the holy orders which I have received,’ quoth the curate, ‘since Apollo was Apollo, and the muses muses, and poets poets, was never written so delightful and extravagant a work as this...Give it to me, gossip, for I do prize more the finding of it than I would the gift of a cassock of the best satin of Florence.’
It's a bit of a stretch, but another thing to note in these readings is that the curate is letting himself be subject to a different way of experience -- not only by love poetry, but also by the classical culture Christianity was supposed to supersede; whereas the Koran is trying to get all of experience subject to itself. Most of the reading is actually about property rights:
Men should have a portion of what their parents and kindred leave, and women should have a portion of what their parents and kindred leave, whether it be little or much, a determined portion. And when the next of kin and the orphans and the poor are present at the division, then maintain them out of it, and speak to them a reasonable speech.
Although that paragraph ends, "Verily, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly, only devour into their bellies fire, and they shall broil in flames." Again with the fire!

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