East meets West – a great documentary

Saw the first part of an amazing eye opening documentary today – East meets West. Learnt a bit about Islam and its spread in the process. Like I said, it was an eye opener!

I didn’t know, for instance, that in its initial years (centuries?) Islam was quite an “open” religion. In the sense that when it took over Christian countries like Damascus, Jerusalem, etc it didn’t convert all the citizens to Muslims nor did it demolish/ convert all the churches to mosques. Instead both religions flourished side by side. That’s just amazing!

Moreover Islam encouraged science and didn’t view scientific pursuit as being against religion. This was particularly poignant considering I had recently read a book about science and religion in India (Ganesha in the dashboard) which talks a lot about how religion views science in opposition to it. I don’t know how Islam views this now but it was good to know back then science was encouraged. Islam considers the world a work of God and science the way mankind can appreciate the beauty of God’s handiwork. So you are not really going against God by trying to understand how things work, you are merely appreciating it. That makes sense when you think about it, doesn’t it?

I also loved the fact that Islam promoted “madrasas” (open schools?) where anyone from the street could just walk into lectures being held by professors on various topics. If you liked it, stay on, else you are free to leave or attend one from a different professor. Islam was big on learning and asking questions. They translated all the Greek and similar works to Arabic. And places Baghdad (which when I hear of now I think war and unrest and Saddam) were the centres of learning and progress. There were plenty of madrasas and libraries all throughout the various Islamic cities. In a way all these reminded me of the Internet of nowadays where there’s a lot of democratization of knowledge – open lectures and freedom to choose what you want, a place where it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor or what your background is, as long as you like to learn and want to make a difference you can! Good stuff…

It’s a four part documentary. Go check it out if you are interested in such stuff.