“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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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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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.
I 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.
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
It is August and many people are on holiday. Everything is quieter than usual; even the internet seems less busy. I feel the need for a holiday too. I miss Andalucia and it’s nearly a year since I was last there. I can’t go anywhere at present though because I am working hard to finish my MA by September. I have a dissertation to write which also involves field study. I am working on the role of memory in interfaith dialogue and looking specifically at Jews and Muslims ‘remembering’ the times they lived and worked together in Al-Andalus. So Andalucia (present day Al-Andalus) is never far from my thoughts. This topic will be expanded when I begin my doctoral research in September.
I was speaking to a Spanish friend on the phone last night and she said I wouldn’t want to go over there right now even if I had the time and money because it is so hot. Climate change is making itself noticeable in the Alpujarra Mountains as well. Summers have become shorter and hotter. In Al-Andalus of medieval times there was a tendency to build houses relatively high and to keep the streets quite narrow. This provided shade and a measure of relief from the heat in summer. They also used water in numerous water channels and fountains. The Court of Lions in the Alhambra in Granada is a wonderful example of this. On a hot day I find even the sound of trickling, bubbling, splashing water immensely refreshing. Well, to come back to where I am now, sitting at my laptop in Bristol, the sky grey, the air chilly, quite unusual for August, it certainly makes it easier to work on my dissertation. So, Alhamdulillah for all kinds of weather, rain and sun, wind and dust. What a beautiful planet this is in all its natural diversity!