What was the logic of the Greek-to-Arabic translation movement?

by Rashmee

Posted on September 13, 2020


Why did the second Abbasid Caliph Al Mansur (r.754-775) initiate the Greek-to-Arabic translation movement? He was no scholar but there was a very particular reason to lay claim to the fruits of Hellenic thinking. Al Mansur had an interest in astrology and may have been keen to form a dynastic ideology. This was to be … Continue reading “What was the logic of the Greek-to-Arabic translation movement?”

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The Greek-to-Arabic translation movement: no expense spared

by Rashmee

Posted on September 12, 2020


The 200-year-old Greek-to-Arabic translation movement begun by the Abbasid Caliph Al Mansur (r.754-775) has no equivalent in world history. Never before and never since has one culture tried to import the knowledge of another in so sustained a manner as the Arabs did with Hellenic thought. It was an expensive business too, creating its own … Continue reading “The Greek-to-Arabic translation movement: no expense spared”

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Culture wars and cultural gaps: the Hellenic equation

by Rashmee

Posted on September 11, 2020


The culture wars between the Muslims and the Byzantines had decided effects. Often, they left the Byzantines feeling small and with the sense that they were late-starters. Consider this interesting story recounted by British archaeologist and academic of Late Antiquity Judith Herrin. The Byzantines were trying to brush up on their knowledge of math and … Continue reading “Culture wars and cultural gaps: the Hellenic equation”

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Don’t despair over the culture wars. They’re benign compared to 8th and 9th centuries

by Rashmee

Posted on September 10, 2020


Not too long ago, British sociologist Frank Furedi wrote a piece on the culture wars in the US and UK. He asserted that the culture war was historically “set in motion in Western societies by a powerful impulse to detach the present from the past, which emerged at the turn of the 20th century”. He … Continue reading “Don’t despair over the culture wars. They’re benign compared to 8th and 9th centuries”

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Why Muslim opinion started to tend towards aniconism

by Rashmee

Posted on September 7, 2020


The tendency towards aniconism and the erasure of the secular-religious distinction is a bit of a conundrum. Some scholars posit that it was part of a trend from before the rise of Islam. Indeed, even in the 6th century, before the coming of Islam, there was already starting to be a drift away from representational … Continue reading “Why Muslim opinion started to tend towards aniconism”

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Muslim opinion gradually hardened towards aniconism

by Rashmee

Posted on September 6, 2020


There are many examples of the gradual hardening of Muslim opinion towards aniconism. Aniconism, not iconoclasm. It’s important to note the distinction. Aniconism refers to cults where there is no iconic representation of the deity [anthropomorphic or theriomorphic, which is to say in animal form] to serve as the dominant or central cultic symbol. As … Continue reading “Muslim opinion gradually hardened towards aniconism”

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Early Muslims’ attitude to art in the sacred space

by Rashmee

Posted on September 5, 2020


What’s clear is that early Muslims maintained a separation between art considered appropriate for sacred and secular spaces. In the religious space, the Abbasids, the second Muslim dynasty, followed their predecessor Umayyads. Both employed great restraint in terms of decoration. So the Dome of the Rock, built by the Umayyads, followed Christian techniques of construction … Continue reading “Early Muslims’ attitude to art in the sacred space”

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Early Muslims’ attitude to art and creative expression

by Rashmee

Posted on September 4, 2020


  In the beginning, there was art. Lots of it, in fact, in the secular space. Consider this. Within 30 years of Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632, there was abundant art for the secular space. The palaces and bathhouses of the Umayyads, the first Muslim dynasty (661-750), were rich with exuberant figural art. Three Umayyad … Continue reading “Early Muslims’ attitude to art and creative expression”

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Is there an inherent Islamic hostility to representation?

by Rashmee

Posted on September 3, 2020


  The issue of Islam’s attitude to free expression is back in the news with the trial having begun of 14 alleged accomplices of the gunmen who massacred ‘Charlie Hebdo’ staffers in January 2015. The massacre, remember, was supposed to be revenge for ‘Charlie Hebdo’s’ 2006 republication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which were … Continue reading “Is there an inherent Islamic hostility to representation?”

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In France, it’s yesterday once more with ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Prophet cartoons and a terrorism trial

by Rashmee

Posted on September 2, 2020


  Except for the pandemic, it feels like 2015. The French satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ has republished cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, deemed blasphemous by some Muslims. And the trial has begun (Sept. 2) of 14 alleged accomplices of the gunmen who massacred ‘Charlie Hebdo’ staffers in January 2015. The magazine’s cover featuring the cartoons bears … Continue reading “In France, it’s yesterday once more with ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Prophet cartoons and a terrorism trial”

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Rashmee has lived and worked in several countries in the past decade, including Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Tunisia, the UAE, US and UK