Unravelling glory of Islamic civilisation

Acclaimed filmmaker and television personality Saeed Akhtar Mirza, the author of a new book, The Monk, The Moor & Moses Ben Jalloun, says the clash-of-civilisations theory does not apply to the modern world. "What we are seeing now is use of political power (a power struggle), not a clash of civilisations. The entire edifice of the Western civilisation has its roots in all the other civilisations. The new university in Europe had been translating Arabic texts since the 10th century," Mirza says.

Saeed Akhtar Mirza
Saeed Akhtar Mirza

His new book, part-fiction, part-analysis and part-discovery, is about the untold glory of the Islamic civilisation.

"The world was positioned both geographically and philosophically in a way where ideas moved from India, China, Egypt and Mesopotamia to Europe, prompting an incredible translation process. When the dark ages started in Europe, it was enlightenment for the rest of the world," says Mirza. The medieval Islamic world was a flourishing nerve-centre of science and liberal arts, but "it collapsed too soon to make any significant contribution to society".

According to Mirza, "the book was an attempt to regain the dignity of all the civilisations and regain the ‘essence’ of those words like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ which have been usurped and hijacked."

"It is a journey in digging up the distorted past with parallel narratives - four students at the University of Berkeley in 2008 set out to discover the truths because they see how the past affects their life; the tale of Rehana, an Iranian from the 11th century and her teacher Abu Rehan Al Biruni who takes her on a tutorial journey, a place in Andalusia where Arabic texts are being translated to Greek and Spanish; and my soliloquies to put my point of view," says Mirza.

Mirza has used the "eastern style of writing in small-framed, barely 500-word chapters, with a sub-title for each, like the ancient narrative Buddhist tales" for younger generations to relate to. "I always had a deep distaste for ideas that create barriers between people. This sort of ideas work into people’s consciousness and create distorted perceptions of the past. A number of distinguished scholars have helped me unravel the long-hidden secrets in this book," he said..

Mirza cites interesting examples to prove Oriental and Islamic influences in European thinking and literature. He said Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy was inspired by the myths surrounding Prophet Mohammed’s ascent to heaven. "Dante was mentored by a Florentine scholar in king Alphonso’s court who had knowledge of Islam. I start with a debate on Dante in US, of Dante being a plagiarist," Mirza said. lbert Pinto ko gussa kyon aata hai, Mohan Joshi haazir ho, Salim langde pe mat ro and the tele-serial Nukkad, is now writing a play which he will talk about later. He had earlier authored Ammi: Letters to a Democratic Mother. The launch of the The Monk, The Moor & Moses Ben Jalloun (Harper-Collins) was an extended event of the ongoing World Book Fair. — IANS