Saeed Mirza unravels glory of lost Islamic civilization

March 2nd, 2012 - 1:53 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 2 (IANS) 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 and the powers. The new university in Europe had been translating Arabic texts since the 10th century,” Mirza said.

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,” Mirza said.

He said 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”.

Mirza’s book was launched by Mushirul Hasan, the chief of the National Archives of India, and Congress politician Mani Shankar Aiyer in the capital late Thursday.

Mirza said “his 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,” Mirza said.

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.

Some of them include Maria Rosa Menocal, Abbas Hamdani, Amartya Sen, Martin Bernal, George Saliba, Charles Burnett, Dick Teresi and Hamilton Morgan, he said.

But the conclusions drawn are completely Mirza’s - and he “takes full responsibility for them”.

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.

Mirza, known for his movies like “Albert Pinto ko gussa kyon aata hain”, “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.

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