Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Fatema Mernissi

Pessimism is a routine
Hope is a creation
Celebrations of the things which are mysterious

al-ya's 'ada
al-amal ibticar
'ihtifa' bi-l-ashya' al ghamida'
Dar al Adab, Beruit 1988, p. 36

Wandering through Fatema Mernissi's website revealed a woman substance. I enjoyed the taste of what I found here; in an extract from Fatema's Erasmus Prize speech, 4 November 2004 - Is the Satellite Reawakening Sindbad? Adab or Allying with the Stranger as the Strategy to Win the Globalized Planet.

I have used an extract I loved but it's out of context ... I'll leave you to explore the rest on your own if you're curious.

Safar (travel) as Self-discovery
'For Jahiz, the Adab strategy to empower oneself by adding the stranger's brain to one's own, implies that you avoid getting stuck in your hometown and force yourself to travel: "Staying too long at home is one of poverty's causes. Movement creates prosperity." (Book of Metropolises and Wonders of the World, Kitab al Amsar wa 'ajaib al buldan.)

It is the key idea of Jahiz's Adab strategy, to travel far to communicate with the stranger and make yourself useful to him by exchanging goods, that was celebrated by poets of the Abbasid court like Abu Tammam (born in Syria, ninth century): "Travel! It is the only way to renew yourself," he chanted in Baghdad streets.

This idea of traveling as a quasi biological need to regenerate oneself was expanded in later centuries to its cosmic dimension by the Sufis (mystics of Islam) who identified movement (haraka) with life (hayat) and inertia (sukun) with death. The poet At-Tinnisi (born in Egypt, eleventh century) entranced his audience by reminding them what they gain from going to strange lands: "Travel! Trips provide you with five advantages: entertainment, earning one's living, self-discipline, knowledge and the opportunity to be in the company of splendid creatures." It is from the adventures of real Arab travelers, who described their trips to China and India, Africa and Europe once back in Baghdad, that the story-teller, who invented the "1001 Night Tales", found inspiration when crafting the figure of Sindbad'.

Needless to say, 'the Adab strategy of empowering oneself by adding the stranger's brain to one's own' and the concept of 'traveling far to communicate with the stranger and make yourself useful to him by exchanging goods' made me think of the experiences I've been having here in the blogging world ...

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