Saturday, February 21, 2015

Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, Dr. Martin Lings

Dr. Martin Lings was a close friend of C.S.Lewis when they were in college. Lings was trained as a Shakespearian scholar, but he became interested in Islam and converted in the 1940s. His biography of Muhammad is one of the most widely accepted biographies in the English language. 

I highly recommend this book because it portrays the life of Muhammad from the point of view of a true Muslim believer. Much of Islamic faith and practice is based on the life of Muhammad. Lings does not gloss over things like Muhammad's marriage to Aisha when she was six years old (consummated when she was nine). He definitely shows Muhammad's great involvement in warfare and that in Islam, state and religion are "inextricably bound together." 

I have written a brief comparison between Christianity and Islam that draws from some of the things presented in this book. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lost in Shangri-La, by Mitchel Zuckoff

Near the end of World War II an American pilot accidentally discovered a "lost valley" high in the mountains of New Guinea. The Americans were so interested in this valley that they began to take sight seeing flights over it. Flying low over the valley they would observe the natives, their huts and gardens.

One of the flights failed to clear the ridge at the end of the valley and crashed in the jungle. Twenty-one men and women (WACs) were killed. Three survived. The survivors struggled down the mountainside and soon encountered the valley natives. Initially they were very fearful of cannibalism, but eventually both groups overcame their fears. There were many humorous incidents as they began to understand each other's culture.

Stop reading here if you want to find out on your own what happened!

One of the strangest orders ever given in military history occurred when the native men kept rubbing the arms, backs and legs of the American GIs. The captain in charge became concerned about this behavior and suspected that it was sexual in nature. He thought the natives thought the Americans were females. So he ordered all his men to drop their drawers and walk around for a whole day without pants or underwear. Later, the natives recalled this incident and were quite surprised by it. While the men only wore a penis gourd, this small piece of clothing was very important to them, and to be without it was very embarrassing to them. As it turned out the natives were rubbing the GIs because they had never seen clothing before, and they couldn't figure out what this strange "skin" was which was on the soldiers!

There was no way in or out of the valley except by air. Paratroopers and supplies were dropped in to help the survivors. Eventually the Americans came up with a plan to fly gliders into the valley and to retrieve them with a daring "snatch"from a tow plane. All three survivors and their rescuers were flown out of the valley along with a little pet pig the Americans had named "Peggy."

The encounter between the two cultures left a tremendous impression on both. The Americans were glad to find out that the people who helped them, the Dani Tribe, only ate their enemies. The tribesmen thought that the Americans were ghosts. Despite their cultural differences they developed friendships that made the survival of the Americans possible.

One of the saddest and most ironic discoveries was that the tribes of this valley lived in perpetual warfare with each other. The Americans realized that even this part of the world, virtually untouched by modern civilization, suffered from the effects of war. Reading between the lines it is easy to see that the problem of sin and its effects are embedded in the hearts of all people.

Not long after this Christian missionaries came to the valley and most of the tribesmen became Christians. With the influence of the Christian faith and with government pressure the warfare among the tribes ceased.

Alexander Cann, a movie producer, parachuted into the valley and made a twelve minute film of the story.