Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Introduction to Ancient Greece

Under this title, I am presenting the following writings of mine, originally published in The Review, the midweek supplement of Dawn in the early 2000s and written from a perspective which I now call "the Valley of Wonderment":

  1. Helen of Troy
  2. Herodotus
  3. Socrates
  4. Aristotle
  5. Alexander the Great
  6. Cleopatra

The religion of ancient Greece appears to be derived from various pagan traditions. Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war may have been one of the idols smashed by Abraham in the famous anecdote mentioned in the Quran. In Greece, she matured into the consummation of Venus and Mars, devoutly to be sought. Aristotle stands out as a rare visionary who showed that a deeper analysis of Greek drama depicted the universe to be ruled by a single master. If studied carefully, his Poetics may be one of the two most beautiful tributes to the Unity of God outside Abraham’s direct following (the other being Bhagavad Gita).

In his famous expedition, Aristotle’s great pupil Alexander discarded the legacy of Pharaoh for the path of Cyrus, who may have been the mysterious Zulqarnayn praised in the Quran. In any case, the original message of the Persian prophet Zarathustra was Unity, and Alexander adopted the statecraft, etiquettes and even the dress of Zoroastrians. In becoming a second Cyrus he also became another Zulqarnayn (something that didn’t escape the notice of Persian Sufi masters like Ferdowsi and Nezami Ganjavi).

After Alexander, the fall of Greece coincided with a revival of Plato, especially in the land of the Pharaoh where hypocrisy watched over the birth of Roman imperialism as Cleopatra relinquished her paradise to the serpent of the Nile.

Note on the background of these writings: I call the twenty years from 1987 to 2006 the Valley of Wonderment in the history of Pakistan because Sheikh Fariduddin Attar has described the valley in The Conference of the Birds as a place where the Unity previously written on the souls is gone. Travelers do not know whether they are dead or live, awake or asleep, and all they can tell is that they are in love but they do not know with whom. There cannot be a more apt description for this phase of our collective life, and it resonated in my writings too. Read more...


  1. In my limited experience, genuinely looking for UNITY of Divine LOVE - God - no matter the difficulty - disregarding all that would separate...this has so much to do with the meaning of the West or in East... God -praise His name - shows UP as unity - even unbenownst to the key players often...yet showing up in Secondary Schools are result of acting in love and care at home...

  2. I was tired when left last comment and should have been more clear...I think I meant to use the last comment as a metaphor - that we who would that others see Divine as One...demonstrate that our experience of the same (via monotheism) acts out as love to other monotheists - then translates secondarily or "secondary school" (probably not the best metaphor - may have been a slip of tongue) to others who are not monotheists per se as love and listening to them as well...finding common ground wherever possible.

    Then on a personal level: how are we and are we seeking Divine Unity inside our selves and our communities?

    per Quran 82 Bursting Apart: What we send ahead and leave behind for ALL the children of the world from our very souls.

    I have just barely started the article: "Rethinking the Islamic Perspective in an Era of Religious pluralism by Prof Dr. Nevad Kahteran p.l 79 of "Iqbal Review" and am wondering if any here would have helpful tips to bear on this topic...(is this the kind of asking which is discouraged by Iqbal?)

  3. No, this is not the kind of "asking" that Iqbal would discourage :D

    Seeking opinions from others, and respecting them, is the best way towards developing the "real ego" (which the collective ego) and rising above our "virtual egoes" (which are individual).

    I shall try to address your very interesting reference in a complete post. Here, just a personal clarification. I do not limit "monotheist" to the so-called "Abrahamic faiths" (and I try to avoid that term). Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and independent thinkers like Aristotle can clearly be seen to have faith in the Unity of God although it may be expressed through a system alien to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

    I feel that this is what you meant, and that is how you would like to approach the issue, but current intellectual milieu of Western thought in comparative religion might be outraged at this suggestion even more than an ordinary unschooled Muslim in India or Pakistan.

    I can only offer you this reassurance: at least one mainstream thinker, i.e. Iqbal, is on our side in this case (and so are the unschooled masses of Pakistan, by the way).

  4. In my humble opinon the powerful nations of Romans and Greeks have been source of all troubles on the planet earth. It were they who attacked and plundered first Europe and then invaded east more than once in the recorded history. Starting from attacks of Alexender, their invasions continued some times in the name of religion (the Crusades) and wars of colonisation. And the most disappointing aspect of these invasions that they brought Christian Clergy in their wake. So the Christianity turned in to a war mongering community instead of working as servants and saviours of humanity as Christ son of Mary did. Their attacks on Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan are continuing.
    As Iqbal has put it:

    Yeh zoro dasto bazoo wa zarbat kari ka hai muqam,
    Maidan jang main talab kar na nawaae chang. The only option open, according to Iqbal is empowering the nations of the East under a central leadership of faithful.

  5. Javed Sahib, thanks. I hope that the future will be better than the past :).