A new mask of old themes .. Islamic traditions of science fiction | culture

Science fiction is globally associated with political and social criticism, and Arabic literature has known science fiction since an early age, but modern works are dominated by an entertaining and educational character, not literature that deals with contemporary social reality and is exposed to criticism. and analysis.

Not many science fiction readers know that traditional themes in genre novels like invisible men, time travel, alien flying cars, and even interstellar and planetary travel are similar to elements in medieval Islamic folk tales like “A Thousand of a night “.

In his article for the Australian journal Aeon, Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmed, an academic in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Washington and a data scientist and artificial intelligence scientist, wrote that speculative fiction is often linked to European romance and read in response. to the Industrial Revolution. But to think of imaginative technologies, to imagine ideal social arrangements, and to draw blurred boundaries between mind, machine, and animal, is not solely the property of the West.

By the early 20th century, the writer says, “reflective imagination” emerged in the Islamic world as a form of resistance to Western colonial forces. For example, Muhammadu Bello Kajara, a Nigerian author who writes in the language of the Hausa tribes, wrote. Yanuki in 1934, a novel It takes place in alternate West Africa, where indigenous peoples are involved in a war against British colonialism, but in a world inhabited by elves and other creatures.

In the following decades, when the great Western empires began to collapse, the theme (theme) of political utopia was often treated with irony. For example, the novel “Elixir of Life” by Moroccan writer Mohamed Aziz Lahbabi was about discovering an elixir that gives immortality, but instead of being a reason for society to prevail in hope and happiness, it caused class division, unrest and disintegration of the social structure.

The writer narrates the transformations of science fiction literature in the Islamic world in the twentieth century, focusing on the novel by Iraqi writer Ahmed Saadawi “Frankenstein in Baghdad”, which discusses the war and sectarian violence in Iraq from the angle of an imaginary monster. collected from various parts of the bodies of victims of war and violence.


Aurangzeb Ahmed published the series “Islam and Science Fiction”, a selection of short stories from science fiction literature that he compiled because he did not see adequate representation of Muslims in science fiction.

In the introduction to his book, Ahmed writes that he started the Islam and Science Fiction Project in 2005 and the main motive behind the project was to fill a gap in literature on Muslims and Islamic cultures in science fiction.

Thus, the focus is on Muslim-majority cultures and not necessarily on the religion itself, although there is an overlap between the two, and the anthology included about 78 contributions from Muslim and non-Muslim writers in the first volume.

The first volume of the “Islam and Science Fiction” series includes 78 posts (Al-Jazeera)

“The field of Islamic science fiction did not reach maturity until more than 150 years after the emergence of science fiction from the Islamic world and more than a decade after the start of the Islamic Science and Science Fiction Project,” Ahmed wrote. In the early years of this project, I co-edited an anthology of science fiction “A Glass Between the Stars” with Canadian science fiction author Ahmed Khan in 2008. “

“And the technical website gizmodo quoted Ahmed as saying that most stories discuss traditional tricks of science fiction (such as time travel or alien invasions) through an Islamic lens, but others are particularly inspired by Islamic culture, such as storytelling.” The Calligraphy “. Alex Criss with whom Ahmed started his book.

Ahmed says Islam is represented in both traditional and modern science fiction, for example, the novel and film “Dune” carry many themes and terminology from Islamic culture, and Ahmed said the reason is partly because Muslim countries have a wide range of fairy tales. and myths that resonate in science fiction, such as “A Thousand and One Nights.”

This representation is also due to the contribution of Islamic civilization to the scientific community. When Europe was in the medieval era, Islamic civilization was in a golden age for scientific and mathematical discoveries, from the time of the elephant (invented by the scientist and engineer Badi Al-Zaman Al-Jazari 1136-1206 AD) in the dark cabin of the optician Ibn Al-Haytham, where Islamic civilization brought many technological marvels to the modern world.

Muslim scholars have also translated thousands of additional texts in science, medicine, and mathematics, and this dedication to science, technology, and the construction of the world has also inspired many works of fiction that are part of the roots of science fiction, according to the author.

While Frankenstein by English author Mary Shelley is considered the first work of real science fiction in the opinion of critics, there are many books – some by Muslim authors – that have many features that distinguish science fiction, and among these novels “A True Story”. by Lucian of Samosata, It is a novel from the second century AD about a man who travels to the Moon through a water tap and encounters strange creatures, and is also the story of Hayy bin Yaqzan by Ibn Tufail in the 12th century AD Of Christ.

literary mask

Arabic literature has known science fiction since a young age, but modern works have been mostly entertaining and educational, and not literature that deals with contemporary social reality and is subject to criticism and analysis.

Science fiction is globally linked to political and social criticism, and George Wells’ early novels – such as “The Time Machine” – contained political projections that often opposed power, while the novel “Places of Planets in the Telemac Chronicles” which was translated by Rifa’a al-Tahtawi from French in the mid-19th century, included harsh criticism.For King Louis XIV.

In his book “Islam, Science Fiction, and Extraterrestrial Life: The Culture of Astrobiology in the Islamic World,” Jürg Matthias Dettermann, an academic at the Commonwealth University of Virginia in Qatar, looks at Muslim-majority countries and countries ruled by authoritarian regimes that have produced many great fictional novels pertaining to biology.Astronom or the search for extraterrestrial life.

The book discusses how scientists from Muslim-majority countries have been at the forefront of exciting research into extraterrestrial life, and argues that Islamic traditions have generally been supportive of concepts of extraterrestrial life (such as belief in the existence of jinn), according to a previous report. by Al Jazeera Net.

In this engaging book, the author surveys Arabic, Bengali, Malaysian, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu texts and films, showing how scholars and artists in Muslim-majority countries have been at the forefront of exciting research.

He concludes that oppression has helped science fiction more than harm, as censorship has encouraged authors to conceal criticisms of contemporary politics by plotting in the future and on distant planets.

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