Kalila and Dimna and other little known Arab Literature

I’m pretty sure that the tales of  “The Arabian Nights” have been read to children all over the world for over 1500 years. Also known as “The 1001 Nights” it’s beloved characters like Sherezade, the Caliph Harun al Rashid, Jafar al-Barmaki, Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, have and continue to inspire children everywhere .

“Kalila and Dimna” was one of the translations from the Persian language during the reign of Al Mamum, a beautiful set of fables that featured animals compared with Aesop fables, it is still taught in school and is as popular as the Arabian Nights. The Bayt Al Hikma, “House of Knowledge” in Bagdad established by Harun Al Rashid, the Caliph mentioned in the Arabian Nights, grew to be the greatest center of learning the world had ever seen. Caliph Al Mamun, sent scholarly messangers to collect texts even as far as Constantinople. By the end of his reign his library had translations of works of Hippocrates, and Galen, the Mathematical treatises of Archimedis and Euclidean Geometry and every work of Plato and Aristotele. The bayt Al Hik the chief librarian was a Persian poet and astrologer.

al-Qarawiyyin Mosque the oldest functioning university in the world.

Fatima al-Fihri,  grew up in a rich and intellectual family who left Kairouan, Tunisia to Fez, Morocco in early 9th century. Her family was part of a large migration to Fez from Kairouan, her father, Mohammed al-Fihri, became a successful merchant.[5]  She and her sister Maryam were well-educated and studied the Islamic jurisprudence Fiqh and the Hadith, or the records of Prophet Muhammed.[6] When her father died, Fatima and her sister Mariam  invested their money in building al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and Madrasah, an educational institution for the benefit of her local community named for the immigrants from her city. Overtime, the educational institution became the University of al-Qarawiyyin – the oldest functioning university in the world 857–859 CE in Fez, Morocco, awarding academic degrees in religious and non-religious disciplines such as: Mathematics, Astronomy, Physics, Poetry, Astrology, Literature and Islamic jurisprudence.
University of Bologna, Italy est. 1088, is the oldest continuous university in continental Europe.  in Oxford -1096, and Cambridge – 1209, England, in Paris [ Sorbonne] – 1150, France, and,  Harvard -1636, USA.

The Quran [Koran]

The word qurʾān, which occurs already within the Islamic scripture itself (e.g., 9:111 and 75:17–18), is derived from the verb qaraʾa—“to read,” “to recite”—but there is probably also some connection with the Syriac qeryānā, “reading,” used for the recitation of scriptural readings during church services.

The prophet Muhammad was a merchant in Saudi Arabia, trading with other merchants from China, Persia, Greece, and the Roman Empire. I believe he must have heard many ideas about monotheistic religions particularly the Jewish religion and Abraham’s background from the city of Ur in Persia.  Muhammad’s message was comparable to that of Abraham’s and the religious beliefs of Islam and Judaism, have a very similar structure. In Islam and Judaism, people believe Jesus was a prophet.
The pophet Muhammad was 40, around 610 CE, when he reported being visited bythe Angel  Gabriel in The Hira cave atop the Jabal al-Nur (“Mountain of Light”), when he received his first revelation from God. In 613.[7] Muhammad started preaching these revelations in public[8] proclaiming that “God is One“, that complete “submission” (islām) to God (Allah) is the right way of life (dīn),[9] and that he was a prophet and messenger of God, similar to the other prophets in Islam.[3][10][11] According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad himself was a Hanif and one of the descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham.[38][39]
The Qur’an, is written in Arabic language, 
includes the stories of Abraham, Noah, Moses, and Jesus. It recognizes Jews and Christians as “People of the Book.”

It is worth noting that today there are about 1.8 million Muslims all over the world who need to read the Quran [Koran] in its original Arabic language, regardless of their ethnicity, race, nationality or first language. This creates a bond among people of the same faith across the world. Similarly, the Jewish people need to read the Torah in its original Hebrew language. Christians on the other hand read the Christian Bible including the old testament from the Jewish Bible in their own language not in Greek or Latin. However, Islam just as Christianity and Judaism has have different interpretations of the Quran and today, there are two main branches that stand up such as “The Sunni”, and “The Shia”.

I believe that the need to read the Quran, and the command from the prophet Muhammad “ “To find knowledge even if you have to go as far as China” were the catalyst that impulse the Golden Age of Islam, and the spread of reading, learning, writing that would become known as the Reinassance in Europe many years later. I hope you keep reading about this subject and I am sure you will be impressed.

Books you might want to read or gift.

As always, it is my sincere hope that after reading these blogs you may be inspired to take one word, one story, one name and read more about them. 

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