BBC – An Islamic History of Europe

“In this 90-minute documentary, Rageh Omaar uncovers the hidden story of Europe’s Islamic past and looks back to a golden age when European civilisation was enriched by Islamic learning. Rageh travels across medieval Muslim Europe to reveal the vibrant civilisation that Muslims brought to the West. This evocative film brings to life a time when emirs and caliphs dominated Spain and Sicily and Islamic scholarship swept into the major cities of Europe. His journey reveals the debt owed to Islam for its vital contribution to the European Renaissance.” (courtesy BBC from youtube)

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Moses Ibn Maimun (Maimonides) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes)

As I am soon going to Spain for a research month I couldn’t resist posting this film. This is an excerpt from the film ‘Cities of Light’ which is about the history of Al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) and the incredible flourishing of philosophy, theology, medicine, translation, and much more, among the Jewish and Muslim scholars and mystics.

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Back to Andalucia

Photo by Philip C

Photo by Philip C

Dear Friends and Readers, apologies for not having written a great deal recently but I have been deeply immersed in my research and writing plenty of academic stuff. Just another 2 weeks and I will be going to Andalucia, Spain for a field study. There will be plenty of work to do but I also plan, inshallah, to continue writing ‘Diary of an Andalucian Village’. So look out here for posts from Andalucia in May. I am looking forward to once again bathing in the beautiful light of Andalucia, seeing the mountains and the sea, visiting the beautiful architecture that remains from Al-Andalus and seeing many friends once again. May is definitely one of the most beautiful months of the year in the Alpujarra mountains as they are covered with so many beautiful wild flowers. A real bouquet of colour.

Ibn ‘Arabi and Spiritual Refreshment

hirtenstein1I can always rely on Ibn ‘Arabi for spiritual refreshment and feeling greatly in need of drinking close to the source of compassion I have been reflecting on the great Shaykh’s life and work recently. Ibn ‘Arabi is also known as the Shaykh al-Akbar, the greatest Shaykh. He was born in Al-Andalus in the mid twelfth century and lived half his life there before travelling east. He wrote prodigiously and claimed never to write anything he had not experienced personally. His influence on the development of Sufism was immense. Stephen Hirtenstein has written a biography of Ibn ‘Arabi and what I appreciate so much about this biography is the way he introduces the reader to the thought of Ibn ‘Arabi and also describes the historical context in which he lived, wrote, and pursued his spiritual path. Many scholars see Ibn ‘Arabi as being equally significant to our present day concerns alongside the work of Jalaluddin Rumi. To read this book is like stepping into the times of Ibn ‘Arabi in Al-Andalus and bathing in his spiritual wisdom. Having lived in Andalucia I often had a sense of his presence in the places he had been whether in the mosque of Cordoba, the port of Adra, or under the mulberry trees in the Alpujarran Mountains. It felt like remembering his presence in Andalucia brought a special blessing and that I had moved back several hundred years through time, or that time had become blurred and no longer relevant. One day, insh’allah, I hope to visit his tomb in Damascus.

If you would like to read more about this great Shaykh then just click on the image.

Ibn ‘Arabi’s “Seven Days of the Heart”

“Providing a precious glimpse into the real practice of the mystical life within the Sufi tradition, this volume marks the first time any of Ibn ‘Arabi’s prayers have been translated into another language. The 14 prayers include not only the most astounding expressions of devotion and contemplation, but also an unparalleled depth of knowledge of union. The very structure of the prayers is itself a mode of contemplation, making for a unique spiritual experience.”

The following prayer is the prayer for Wednesday. I find it beautiful and powerful. As it says above, “the very structure of the prayers is itself a mode of contemplation”. While reading this prayer it felt like a spiritual experience. These heartfelt words enliven the soul and the love with which they were written vibrates as a palpable force. They certainly provide much to contemplate with awe and even after a lifetime of Wednesdays there will still be plenty to discover anew in the profundity of this prayer.

Wednesday Morning Prayer

IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE ALL-COMPASSIONATE AND MOST MERCIFUL:

O my Lord, confer upon me the honour of contemplating the lights of Your Pure Holiness, and the support of manifesting the power and authority of Your Intimacy, so that I may be turned according to the glories of the knowledges [which flow] from Your Names, and that this variability may disclose to me the secrets of every atom of my being in every sphere that I contemplate. By this may I come to witness what You have placed within the seen and unseen realms, and may I behold how the mystery of Your Holy Power permeates the evidences of Divine nature and human nature. Grant me complete gnosis and universal wisdom, so that there remains nothing knowable [in the universe] without me coming to know the subtle threads of its intricacies, which are spread throughout existence. By this may I drive away the darkness of created things which prevent the perception of the realities of [Your] Signs, and by this may I dispose freely over the hearts and spirits, kindling true love and friendship, right conduct and guidance.

Indeed You are the Lover who is Beloved, and the Seeker who is Sought! O You who makes all hearts turn and turn! O You who removes all distress! You are the One who knows all that is unseen, the One who puts a veil over all shortcomings, the One who covers up all sin with forgiveness! O You who has never ceased to be All-Forgiving! O You who has never ceased to veil and protect!

O Forgiving One! O Veiling One! O Preserver! O Protector! O Defender! O Benefactor! O Truly Affectionate One! O Graciously Indulgent One! O Most Subtle and Benevolent! O Most Mighty and Invincible! O Flawless, Boundless Peace! Forgive me, veil me and preserve me. Protect me, and defend me. Bestow upon me beneficence, affection and indulgence. Be benevolent to me, make me invincible, and grant me peace and security. Take me not to task for the baseness of my actions, and do not requite me for the evil of my works. Correct me without delay through Your complete Benevolence, and purify me with the purity of Your universal Compassion. Do not let me stand in need of any other than You! Protect me and absolve me. Make my whole affair righteous and proper [to You].

There is no god but You! Glory be to You, indeed I have been of the oppressors. You are the Most Merciful of the mercifiers!

May the blessing of God be upon our master Muhammad, and upon his family and companions, salutations to them all. Peace be upon the messengers. And praise be to God, Lord of the universes.

A Video on the History of Muslim Spain

Photo I. Chatterjee

If you scroll down to the videos on the right hand side you will see I have added a video on Muslim Spain. This is an excellent documentary that recalls the 800 year history of Arab rule in Spain. The filmography is a delight with sumptious images of Muslim architecture and gardens, such as the Alhambra and the mosque of Cordoba