Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why Baghdadi talks like that

[Originally posted at NOW]

There are a great many oddities with the speech last Friday by ISIS/IS leader Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka “Caliph Ibrahim”), and while many have been amused by his apparently expensive wristwatch, I am myself less inclined to be surprised at a religious megalomaniac indulging the perks of power.

No, for me the weirdest aspect is the way the guy spoke; abruptly elongating various vowels and consonants in a manner that totally disrupts natural oratory rhythm. If one knew no better, one would think he suffered from a stutter or other speech impediment, if not indeed something worse.

But in fact what he’s doing – which is something new, not practiced by the likes of Bin Laden or Zawahiri – is speaking in accordance with the Islamic rules of reciting the Quran, known as tajweed (literally “improvement”). The madd (“extension”) convention, for example, mandates doubling the length of a long vowel if it is preceded by a short vowel (haraka). In addition to tajweed, Quran recitation techniques follow one of at least seven styles (qira’at), each having, according to one Islamic blog, its own “unique mood, flourishes, tempo, pitch, vocal ‘color’ and durations of certain notes and pauses.” I’m unable to ascertain exactly which qira’a Baghdadi adheres to, but it’s safe to assume he’s done some hard thinking on it, and can argue with conviction why it is the correct one (to recite the Quran improperly, after all, constitutes the sin of lahn, which another website informs us “may deprive the reader of any reward in the Hereafter”).

Then again, perhaps Baghdadi needs to brush up on his theory, because according to this website, “It is not permissible to apply the rules of tajweed […] to normal conversation. The majority of the scholars are of the view that the rules of tajweed apply only to the words of the Quran.”

Worse, another website says some clerics go so far as to consider the use of tajweed for non-Quranic recital as tantamount to the grave sin of bid’a (“innovation”), on the grounds that it might lead listeners to confuse the speaker’s own words with those of Allah.

Come to think of it, for the man declaring himself the absolute ruler of every Muslim on earth, the comparison may not necessarily be an unwelcome one.

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