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15 September 2007

the Ramadan Kareem puzzle (continued)

Clearer and simpler Arabic calligraphy of the name of Allah. The largest is painted on the wall of the Old Mosque in Edirne, Turkey. (1999 photo by Nevit Dilmen.)

Abbas Halai said...

hey man khair mubarak. as far as guessing the sura goes, there aren't that many letters in the image to be able to make a coherent guess.

it's like me making an image like this.

a j
k abbas r

and asking me to guess the sura because all i can read are single letters around the word Allah and that's about it.

i'm from a very small, orthodox community that doesn't follow the sighting of the moon the mark the beginning of ramadan, instead we just use a fixed scientific lunar calendar unlike every other islamic community.


You can see why Arab and Persian astronomers ruled the skies for 1000 years (and gave permanent names to most of the naked-eye stars). Pegging the beginning of the holiest annual festival to being able to see a particular phase of the moon is a 44-aspirin astronomical headache.

I learned a lot about when Ramadan begins all over the world. Ramadan begins in about 300 arguments and festivals of confusion and heated controversy all over the planet. In our era, it's common as shoelaces to (try to) compute the Ramadan moon phase visibility problem with big university computers. In the Islamic world, it's a NASA-class problem of great importance to governments, nations, schools, transportation infrastructures, etc. In addition, ICOP's site had tons of images of teams scampering around the globe with portable telescopes praying for clear skies.

Yup yup what you said about the seemingly difficult Nature of this Puzzle.

(This is NOT a PizzaQ, I am trying to handle this thing with dignity and respect. All you get for the correct answer is Astonishment and Admiration.)

It's *almost* impossible to get from this image to the correct Sura.

But apparently not completely impossible. When nascity posted his image and asked his readers/viewers to try to guess the Sura, it triggered a stampede of guesses. About the 40th reply nailed it.

It takes a little Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple thinking.

What Qur'an passage does a master wood sculptor spend a month or more of his life meticulously and laboriously carving? An obscure passage with limited interest or meaning? Or a famous, very well-known passage that is reproduced and exchanged constantly throughout the Muslim world?

For Judaeo-Christians, a puzzle like this might get them to guessing something super-familiar like the 23rd Psalm, or the first lines of the Christmas Gospel. They could skip the verses that demand you only eat fish with scales, or the verses that list 30 generations of "begats." Nobody makes a laborious art work of those.

So you're not really guessing among a huge crowd of 114 Sura or 1000 Ayat. More likely, you only have to scrutinize about 20 or 30 likely famous passages, and see which ones might match what little other information is in the image. And in fact nascity (a college grad from Boston, now a quite popular photographer in Dubai) hinted that the image he'd photographed was a well-known Sura. Fortunately for me, most (though not all) of his commenters replied in English.

I thought the image was quite gorgeous -- much lovelier than my usual dirt-ignorant Ramadan Hallmark Cards -- and Vleeptroned the question because it seemed to give so much fun and pleasure to nascity's admirers. Why should they have all the fun?

The best Huckleberry Finnstein can boast is that I *can* -- barely -- solve this kind of problem in Biblical Hebrew. But I can fantasize about learning more Arabic and someday reading a tiny bit of the Qur'an and the Alf Layla in the original. So far my familiarity is strictly with Dawood's Penguin translation of the Qur'an -- which, buzz has it, is one of the world's perpetual megabestsellers.

While we got you on the line, you *could* tell us a little bit about how you're celebrating Ramadan. (And then you could slip us a little politics gossip about what the heck's going on in PK this month.)


Abbas Halai said...

Well considering there's only 114 Sura's, it's statistically very easy to hit upon the most famous ones after guessing a few, or forty. The list is compiled here. I probably know roughly fifty of those off the top of my head. As far as ramadan beginnings go, it's a sore topic back in Pakistan as nobody can ever decide when it's gonna start and when it'll end and people just end up doing their own thing and following their own faiths. Nothing different here in Toronto either as some people follow ISNA or some other islamic group or just follow Saudi Arabia etc. For me, I like knowing when I can eat again and tell my boss that he doesn't have to worry about me being cranky after a certain date.

As far as politics go, well shit's hit the fan and this may well be a turning point in the stability of the entire middle eastern region unfortunately depending on who gets elected and who doesn't. Musharraf in his last attempts to grasp at straws has promised to resign as Chief of Army if gets re-elected. Heh. Should be amusing nevertheless. Nawaz Sharif got kicked out again of the country and BB had said that she would return to the country on Oct 18th, though what she's cooking until then is beyond me. Nevertheless, it's all a farce to me.

As far as celebrating Ramadan goes, not really much to celebrate on this side of the pond. Back home, the world comes alive. Businesses and shops come to a near standstill during the day and festivities start around 5pm and go on until 4 am and it's one of the most profitable time for shopkeepers as they sinfully sell their arm and a leg as they prep for Eid. Much like how Christmas and Thanksgiving fever starts here around October.

muebles en caceres said...

Well, I do not really imagine it is likely to have effect. said...

This will not truly have success, I consider so.