The Monk, The Moor and Moses Ban Jalloun- Book Review

Most discoveries and pre-inventions happened out of the East, and Islamic scholars (or Arabic ones) were responsible. Sounds incredible? Well, read Saeed Mirza's book by the name above, and you may just be surprised. In one of the gentlest yet scathing attacks on the Western scholars, some of whom come out as outright plagiarists, this delightful pocketbook points out how the West has appropriated the credit for everything modern- art, literature, science, maths, the works, without sharing credit with the original thinkers.

Starting with Dante's Divine Comedy, the book delves into real history of inventions in diverse fields like medicine, astronomy, and metal working, to demonstrate that the Arab and Islamic world contributed greatly to every one of them. The origin of the word 'troubadour' is a case in point, as in wandering singers. This is an eastern term, but not acknowledged as such by most people. Current American ignorance is also pointed out in a remark attributed to John McCain, but the West's portrayal of all Islamic people as barbaric or backward takes a great hit at the end.

Some of the Sultans greatly respected scholars they were fortunate to have in their kingdom, and many encouraged scholarly pursuits, or at least did not oppose them. India;s Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta figure in the narrative too, but one character that comes through very forcefully is the endearing Al-Biruni, whom we may recognise from our history books. He did a study of Hindu people and their customs, and learnt Sanskrit so he could absorb the subtleties of Hind!

Reminded me of Dead Poets' Society in some ways, for challenging our notions of knowledge and conventions. Yes, the author is the director of the 70s films like Albert Pinto ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai, and Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Daastaan. The narrative unfolds in a very unusual way, through four diverse characters -all students of literature, researching these things through a secret society of four. Engrossing!


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