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  • God on a Medieval Fish October 29, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback



    The idea that words or images spontaneously appear on natural objects has long fascinated gullible human beings, and perhaps particularly the Muslim faithful: the letters ‘Allah’ on the filaments of a cut eggplant etc. Quite why there should be more interest in the generation of natural words in Islam it is difficult to say. One possibility is that Christians’ use of figurative art has given them other ways to be silly: e.g. statues with tears. Another possibility is that the gentle curves of Arabic can be more easily reproduced in the natural world than the angular letters of the Roman or Greek alphabet. In any case, Beach recently ran across this early case of miraculous writing. It appears in a work by Abu Yahya Zakariya’ ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini (obit 1283), a Persian writer who may have written the world’s first science fiction story (alien comes to planet earth).  The text is a citation though allegedly dating back to earlier times…

    I sailed the sea in the year 288/900, I mean the Western Sea, and we came to a place called al-Bartun. With us was a lad from Sicily, who cast a fish-hook into the sea, and brought out a fish, the size of a span. We looked, and saw behind one ear in writing ‘There is no god but God’, on its head ‘Muhammad’, and behind the other ear ‘the Apostle of God’.

    This story is unlikely to have been written before 827 when the conquest of Christian Sicily began: a conquest that ended in 902. Al-Bartun seems to refer here to Britain, but this is not a cold dank northern island, rather it is a fantasy land beyond the horizon of Muslim experience, in the same way that the medieval British fantasized about the Indies. As to this very unusual fish all comments seem futile. Presumably, like modern day cryptologists, the good fishermen never got it back to port to show the folk at home as it started to smell and so they threw it back in the water.

    Can anyone get an earlier example of spontaneous words on natural objects: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    31 Oct 2016 Doc writes in with a great 16C Christian pamphlet about a written herring.


    31 Oct 2016: KMH writes in with this interesting consideration: ‘The reason Islam has so many of these natural word wonders is that it is the foremost religion of the written word alone, which was made plain and simple to understand. Christianity has the Bible, but it also has its mysteries and sacraments. Judaism is primarily the written word, but so much is made of hidden meanings, bible codes, etc., within the text that the real idea isn’t always evident.’