Shaykh Daoud’s Blog

Copyright, Credits, and Simple Courtesy

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I keep coming across Muslims who claim that there is no copyright in Islam.

Actually, I’ve been coming across these people since the late 60s. I’ve sometimes asked, and often wondered, what the nusous for this claim are. So far I haven’t had a satisfactory answer. In my reading of the Quran and the Hadiths, to be facetious, I seem to have missed the bit where it says “laysa fi-l Islami-l haqqu-t ta’lif“.

This isn’t actually directed at anybody in particular; but if after reading this you feel that you might have been one of those who slipped up, could you please do the decent thing and enter an ex post facto credit or acknowledgement to me.

It goes against the grain somewhat, but I do have some sympathy with that O’Neill Roman Catholic St Columba (well, the O’Donnells were part of the Northern O’Neill) wishing to keep the copy of the prayer manual he had made – as long as he was willing to give credit where it was due and not pass it off as his own work.

Wikipedia (which in this case is correct) states:

“Tradition asserts that, sometime around 560, he became involved in a quarrel with Saint Finnian of Moville over a psalter. Columba copied the manuscript at the scriptorium under Saint Finnian, intending to keep the copy. Saint Finnian disputed his right to keep the copy. The dispute eventually led to the pitched Battle of Cúl Dreimhne in 561, during which many men were killed. A synod of clerics and scholars threatened to excommunicate him for these deaths, but St Brendan of Birr spoke on his behalf with the result that he was allowed to go into exile instead. Columba suggested that he would work as a missionary in Scotland to help convert as many people as had been killed in the battle.”

It’s thought by some that St Finnian was actually St Ninian (of Whitehorn, or Candida Casa), but it is difficult to give this too much credit as he died about 150 years before the incident of the psalter.

Perhaps having a battle over the matter was a bit extreme. Certainly dumping the Papist and his cronies on the Celtic Christian Dal Riadans was not merely annoying but the source of centuries of strife.

Nevertheless, on the other hand, what he cribbed was somebody else work and he should have credited it as such.

The immediate cause of this whinge of mine is that yet again I’ve come across some recension of the History of Islam in the British Isles done by me.

I suppose the source is either Mas’ud Khan’s website (, or the cached documents from the Association of British Muslims’ website. I don’t mind people using it, but I would like (a) a credit at least, and (b) for them to get it right.

My original write-up was essentially a précis of some research I and my daughter Isla’d done. I’m quite happy for people to cap this, but I would expect them to use – as I did, as far as was possible – primary sources. You cannot write reliable or usable history from secondary or tertiary material.

That means struggling through the Old Irish and Latin of the Annals – of Ulster, Tigernach, and the Four Masters – and the Middle Irish of the Lebor Gabala Erenn, various Latin and Old French documents such as Hector Boyce, volumes of the Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society looking for articles on contract coinage, and visiting the Deanery of Canterbury Cathedral to view the chasuble of St Thomas à Beckett.

And I would like an acknowledgment.

It is hard enough doing primary research without the cosy supportive environment of a sinecure or academic comfort zone (with their resources (and money) on tap) without the simple courtesy of some recognition. Money would have been nice, but a credit might have to do. I’ve given up waiting to be asked, certainly by Muslims but also sadly by non-Muslims, to give any academic papers on my various expertises.

All that being said, and all that effort having been put in, it is frustrating to say the least to find Muslims still trying to claim that Offa king of Mercia (and builder of the dyke I used to live half-a-mile away from) was a Muslim on the strength of a single coin almost certainly struck on contract in Andalusia.

They might just as well claim that St Thomas à Beckett (King Henry II’s “turbulent priest”) was a Muslim because of his chasuble, now kept in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral.

© D Rosser-Owen 2009

Written by David Rosser Owen

April 23, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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