Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Vasalam Ala Man Ataba’al hoda 

That is the concluding phrase of Ahmedinejad's letter to President Bush. It means “Peace only unto those who follow the true path.”

I think we can guess with reasonable certainty what Ahmedinehad's definition of "the true path" is -- and I doubt it conforms with that of even my harshest critics out there.

According to Hillel Fradkin, there is clear historical import to the language chosen by the Iranian President:

It is a phrase with historical significance in Islam, for, according to Islamic tradition, in year six of the Hejira - the late 620s - the prophet Mohammad sent letters to the Byzantine emperor and the Sassanid emperor telling them to convert to the true faith of Islam or be conquered. The letters included the same phrase that President Ahmadinejad used to conclude his letter to Mr. Bush. For Mohammad, the letters were a prelude to a Muslim offensive, a war launched for the purpose of imposing Islamic rule over infidels.

How comforting. H/T to Hugh Hewitt for the links and analysis. I would urge you to read Hewitt's post in its entirety.


By Anonymous shingles, at Tue May 30, 02:43:00 PM:

Except that I'd be wary of automatically accepting the Hudson Institute's interpretation of what this phrase means. Until I see confirmation from sites that aren't your typical right wing sites, caution shall rule the day.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Tue May 30, 03:42:00 PM:

I appreciate your reluctance, but thus far there has been no controversy with regard to the translation form Farsi. It has been published for all to read, see, and translate. Given that within the letter, he also says western liberal democracy has "failed," it doesn't seem to difficult to place his final line in proper context either.

Now, how you interpret his message is another matter. You can either read what it says, and what the Mullahs have been saying since 1979, and take it literally, or not. They call the US, the west generally, infidels. In his letter, he confirms that we in the west do not follow a righteous path, and then he salutes Bush by saying peace ONLY to those who follow the "true" path.

Seems pretty clear to me and most english speakers. So I look at it the other way around. When an expert in Farsi and Islamic history telle me not to be worried and why, then I will pay attention. Until then, I am on guard.

As an aside, I chuckle that so many folks who are disgusted by religious types in the US are so tolerant of the Iranian theocracy. Just an irony to see those folks patiently wait for further explanation from an islamic fanatic when they jump on a us evangelical wihtout any confirmation whatsoever...  

By Anonymous shingles, at Tue May 30, 04:13:00 PM:

I think you are mistaking me for a member of the "sky is falling" left.

I usually hold off on judgment, at least until enough facts are in for me to make an adequate call. With regards to Iran, there's a tendency on the part of some to rush to judgment and believe the worst, or whatever confirms one's own suspicions or fears. This goes for people on all sides of the political spectrum - lefties assuming that the administration is on a mad rush to war and righties believing that the Iranians are the second coming of Hitler (see the discredited yellow star story for example).

My only point was about restraint.

But yes, I do see the irony that you refer to. Then again, these days irony abounds and the left has no monopoly on hypocrisy.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Tue May 30, 06:29:00 PM:

Shingles - I think you are correct, restraint is called for. I have not made the case for military action in Iran, though I would not exclude the possibility either. I simply think we need to be very clear-eyed about what we are dealing with here.

The Iranian Islamic theocracy is our avowed enemy. They seized our embassy, bommed and attacked our shipping, and have built an international guerrilla network to operate on their behalf to attack US interests. Furthermore, their islamism is expansionist in nature.

The guy definitely has balls sending a letter which expresses what it does, and signed the way it is. He is saying, in effect, convert or I will defeat you.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue May 30, 08:31:00 PM:

Well, in Arabic that phrase would be (approximated in roman characters) 'wa salaam Eh'la man AtbEh' [something. dunno because I left my dictionary]. I translated 'Hoda' in an online dictionary as حودى, asهودى ,هودا , حودا, هدا, حدا حضاand هضا before I gave up. They all came up with nothing. It literally means "And Peace on who takes/follows (the conjugation and colloqial meaning would be different depending on the first letter in Arabic, which I can't discern from the phonetic spelling given here; I suspect 3rd person masc. present which would be more like yatbEh'; i.e. 'he follows'), then the 'mystery word.'" I couldn't find the original writing; though even if I did, if Ahmadinejad wrote the phrase in phonetic Arabic using the Farsi alphabet I might give a more garbled translation. Since the rest of the given translation seems to be accurate, I'm fully ready to believe that 'Hoda' means 'True Path' or something close to it.

Note to other: 'Eh'' is used here to represent the letter Ayn.

I don't speak Farsi, but that looks like Arabic to me. If so, it's even more symbolically charged. Writing Arabic rather than Farsi would be a deliberate attempt to immitate Muhammad's words that can't really be chalked up to coincidence. Rather analogous to saying 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone' in Aramaic.

It appears to be exactly what the post claims it to be: a dramatic prelude to expected conflict.

Do I meet your qualifications, Shingles? :)  

By Anonymous shingles, at Wed May 31, 01:38:00 PM:

Beats me.
You lost me at حودى.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed May 31, 07:58:00 PM:

Hehe. I spoke this phrase to an Arab today and they confirmed that yes, it means "and peace upon him who follows the right path."

If anyone cares, that's written as

Apparently Blogger hates the Arabic. It goes right to left, bottom to top.

*done showing off now...*  

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