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Archive for July, 2008

From the Publisher

No religion in the modern world is as feared and misunderstood as Islam. It haunts the popular Western imagination as an extreme faith that promotes authoritarian government, female oppression, civil war, and terrorism. Karen Armstrong’s short history offers a vital corrective to this narrow view. The distillation of years of thinking and writing about Islam, it demonstrates that the world’s fastest-growing faith is a much richer and more complex phenomenon than its modern fundamentalist strain might suggest.

Islam: A Short History begins with the flight of Muhammad and his family from Medina in the seventh century and the subsequent founding of the first mosques. It recounts the origins of the split between Shii and Sunni Muslims, and the emergence of Sufi mysticism; the spread of Islam throughout North Africa, the Levant, and Asia; the shattering effect on the Muslim world of the Crusades; the flowering of imperial Islam in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries into the world’s greatest and most sophisticated power; and the origins and impact of revolutionary Islam. It concludes with an assessment of Islam today and its challenges.

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A series of intimate, 10-minute portraits, explores the lives and beliefs of six young people whose usual places of worship are beautiful and historic mosques across the Muslim world. The films accompany them as they leave their homes and families, follow them as they travel to Saudi Arabia, and share their responses to the culmination of their journey of a lifetime – the pilgrimage to Mecca, where the prophet Muhammed was born.

Within decades of the death of Muhammed, Islam spread fast and its history can be traced through the flowering of exquisite Muslim architecture. Over the next few hundred years, fabulous mosques from Spain to Iran, and from Turkey to Mali formed a focus of Muslim life, as they continue to do today. The Seven Wonders of the Muslim World starts its journey at six of these locations and completes it at the mosque towards which all practising Muslims turn when they pray.

The seven wonders

1. The Grand Mosque in Mecca is the largest mosque in the world. At its centre is the Kaaba, a cubic building covered in a gold-embroidered black cloth towards which Muslims turn as they pray. Every year, millions of people perform the Hajj – the pilgrimage during the 12th month of the Islamic year – and many others make the pilgrimage at other times of year, which is called the Umrah.

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It is one of the most important works ever written. For some billion people worldwide, it is the holy scripture, the word of god and his prophet. For others, it is a historical artifact that has left an indelible imprint on the world. It is the Koran.

SECRETS OF THE KORAN probes the heart of the work that many outside Islam find impenetrable and mysterious. Examine the history of the verses and their implications for modern times, as well as the striking similarities and differences between the Koran and the Bible–and the ways in which Muslims believe the Koran corrects some of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Trace the influence of the Koran from the Golden Age of Islam to the modern rise of jihadism. And hear from top Islamic scholars as they share their insights into the work that lies at the foundation of one of the world’s great religions.

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This three-part series covers more than a thousand years of Islamic history and culture, with emphasis on the contributions that Muslims have made in science, medicine, art, philosophy, learning, and trade.

The first one-hour segment (“The Messenger”) introduces the story of the rise of Islam, and the extraordinary life of the Prophet Muhammad. It covers the revelation of the Qur’an, the persecution suffered by the early Muslims, the first mosques, and then the rapid expansion of Islam.

The second segment (“The Awakening”) examines the growth of Islam into a world civilization. Through trade and learning, the Islamic influence extended further. Muslims made great achievements in architecture, medicine, and science, influencing the intellectual development of the West. This episode also explores the story of the Crusades (including stunning reenactments filmed in Iran), and ends with the invasion of Islamic lands by the Mongols.

The final segment (“The Ottomans”) looks at the dramatic rise and fall of the Ottoman empire.

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SYNOPSIS

Three years in the making and fueled by an unprecedented grassroots funding campaign, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, travels in the footsteps of the prophet to the Arabian desert and the holy city of Mecca where much of Muhammad’s story unfolded. But the film does not just stay in the past. Much of its story is told through the observations of contemporary American Muslims, including a fireman at the World Trade Center on September 11, a second generation Arab-American family building a community based on Islamic principles, a Congressional Chief of Staff working for justice, and a refugee fleeing religious persecution, whose experiences in some way echo Muhammad’s life.

His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was only six. But sheltered by a powerful uncle, he made a good start in life, established himself in a profitable business and married well. Then, at the age of 40, he was transformed. A man who could not read or write, he announced that he was the prophet of God. His name was Muhammad, and in the next 23 years he would bring peace to the warring pagan tribes of Arabia and establish the religion of Islam, which today has 1.6 billion followers.

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One Way Ticket to the Underground

(Written by Mohamed Chetty)

First written in French in 1989

When we are leaving this world for the next one, it shall be like a trip to another country.

Where details of that country won’t be found in glamorous travel brochures but in the Holy Quran and the Ahadiths.

Where our plane won’t be British Airways, Gulf Air or American Airlines but Air Janazah.

Where our luggage won’t be the allowed 23kgs but our deeds no matter how heavy they weigh. You don’t pay for excess luggage. They are carried free of charge. With your Creator’s compliment.

Where our dress won’t be a Pierre Cardin suit or the like but the white cotton shroud

Where our perfume won’t be Chanel, Paco Rabane, but the camphor and attar.

Where our passports won’t be British, French or American but Al Islam

Where our visa won’t be the 6 months leave to stay or else but the “La Illaha Illallah..”

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