English SF News

New Contributor at Islam and Science Fiction

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Islam and Science Fiction would like to welcome a new contributor to our website, Mohamed Bhimji. Here is Mohamed’s brief bio.

Mohamed Bhimji works as a Director of Customer Operations in Vancouver, BC Canada and has a strong background in Information Technology and an immense fascination with science fiction.  He has been a fan of science fiction since he can remember having read the greats and the up-and-coming writers.  His draw to science fiction has been to see where technology can ultimately take mankind, how technology and science can be used to create a better world today and for generations to come.  Science fiction also allows him to dream of a time when we may be able to travel to distant parts of the galaxy and universe.  Over the last few years being introduced to Islam and Science Fiction have taken on a new meaning – not only how technology and science can improve our lives but how religion and Islam in particular fits into the world beyond today.

Looking forward towards a future of great contributions by Mohamed Bhimji.

English SF

Bystander by Alan Foster

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Here is Arabic translation of the short story Bystander by Alan Foster translated by none other than the Arab Science Fiction author Nora Al-Nouman of the Ajwan fame. The story was published as part of a collection of short stories by Alan Foster titled … Who Needs Enemies. Here is the premise of the story from the official book cover.

Bystander (1978) Chapman was dispatched as sole crew on the rescue ship sent to evacuate the Abraxis colony to escape its flare-prone star. He’s just a backup to the tertiary backups, so when the ship awakens him early, he is himself in mortal peril. As if the upcoming freak flare weren’t enough, a mysterious Dhabian spacecraft is pacing his ship – those aliens who ordinarily refuse to have anything to do with humanity.


Academic Literature

Spiritis and Apparitions in the Muslim Imagination

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Image Source: a Jinn from Muḥammad al-Qazwīnī‘s “Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing”

The roots of modern Science Fiction in the Islamic world go back to the rich tradition of fantasy and fantastic creatures. Thus some familiarity with the history of this tradition and how fantastical creatures were conceptualized  by the Islamicite people. The following academic article is a good descriptor of how people in the Muslim world conceptualized spirits in the medieval era.  (Thanks Hal for the pointer)

Esprits et manifestations dans l’imaginaire musulman, de la littérature des merveilles à Edmond Doutté

Publication: Echinox Journal (21/2011)
Author Name: Caiozzo, Anna;
Language: French
Subject: Literature
Issue: 21/2011
Page Range: 75-87
No. of Pages: 13
Summary: In the Medieval Islamic world, three kind of spirits were visible to the living: the spirits of the dead persons by dreaming, the djinns and some apparitions related to black magic and the miracles that occur when the saints want to demonstrate God’s absolute power on death and time.
Academic Literature

Islam and Science Fiction at the Tottenham Palestine Literature Festival!

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Islam and Science Fiction was in London recently, our very own Rebecca Hankins (Ruqayyah Kareem) was a panelist at the Middle Eastern Sci-Fi and Fantasy panel at the Tottenham Palestine Literature Festival. The panel was moderated at Yasmeen Khan who is a curator at the Science Museum. The other panelist was Naomi Foyle who has written Science Fiction stories critiquing some aspects of religion. The panel was quite successful and we would like to thank everyone who showed up and made it a success.

African SF

Ethopian Amharic Sci-Fi from 1945

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History of Science Fiction in Sub-Saharan Africa is an even more neglected subject than say Science Fiction in the Arabic or Turkish languages. Thus it was a breath of fresh air to know about Amharic Science Fiction by a Muslim author from the mid-1940s. The Ethiopian Amharic writer Mäkonnen Endalkaččäw published a collection ArremuňňOne of the stories Yayne Abäba is about an Amhara pre-teen who is sold into slavery but  she escapes and is later reunited with her mother. I09 notes “In one sequence she dreams of a microscope which allows her to see the “Reality behind mere Appearance.” “Yayne Abäba” is notable as an early example of Muslim science fiction, with the “Reality” seen being both terrifying (cosmic horror) and awe inspiring (the workings of Allah).”





Ramadan Drummers and Eid Mubarak

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In many Muslim countries there is a historical tradition that the people are woken up for suhoor/sehri (time to eat late night for the fast) by a drummer. With the advent of technology like time keeping devices, artificial lights etc since the 19th century the number of such people have been decreasing gradually. In some places these people are still around for nostalgic reasons. I was thus delighted to find this image of a Ramadan Drummer in a Sci-Fiesque setting on DeviantArt. The main idea here is that some traditions are retained even in the face of technological tradition.

And of course, Eid Mubarak!


Ramadan in Space

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As of today’s date, nine Muslims have gone into space, no surprisingly space offers unique challenges and opportunities to Muslims in terms of performing their religious duties like daily prayers (which are connected to the rotation of the planet where they live as well as directionality of prayers on Earth) and fasting in the month of Ramadan  (which is connected to not only rotation but also the orbit of the principal satellite of Earth). While this is not Science Fiction, it does offer us interesting opportunities to exlore these themes in Science Fiction. Here is a relevant excerpt from an article on OnIslam:

While for the qiblah (direction Muslims take during prayers), JAKIM drafted it should be determined “according to the capability” of the astronaut. Meaning that if he/she were facing Mecca from the outer space during their flight in an orbit around Earth in a spacecraft like the ISS for example and the prescribed time period of salah coincided with that facing, then they can direct themselves toward Mecca directly.

But in case this coincidence ceased to exist; they can direct themselves toward the angle they believe it directs toward Mecca at best without any mistakes with their salah. That’s based on the Qur’anic verse: {And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.} (Surat Al-Baqarah: 2:115).


When aliens convert to Islam

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It is quite rare that existing religions are explicitly in Science Fiction. Thus it was interesting to see a series on Deviant Art aliens embracing Earth religions including Islam. The description is given below, it does include some stereotype of Islam e.g., the impression of a rule based religion, Muslims not being comfortable with hermaphrodites which is not correct since they were recognized from the early history of Islam and the first country in the world to recognize the third gender was Pakistan which is a predominantly Muslim country. Anyway here is the description:

The Coshum are some of the first indigenous species to experience a clash between human categorical norms and the norms of the indigenous. Coshum indigenous spiritual practices and ideologies are quite fluid and are enforced, stricken and rebuilt by appointed spiritual leaders or “prophets ‘ every generation, a fluidity analogues to their own being. When Islam was brought to the planet, a prophet based faith held similarities to their own; it was believed by the Coshum to be a sect of their own faith. Yet they later came to know the restrictions enforced by this new faith. Coshum by nature are hermaphrodites, a fact originally unknown to the Islamic leaders and Imans. Yet once a method of gender identification and classification was established, all be it inaccurate, “males” were sent to learn from Imans. When missionaries began enforcing strict gender rules, roles, codes and conducts there was a great deal of confusion. Categorized male Coshum would next day be exhibiting what was believed to be female roles and mannerisms. Once completely understood, Islamic law was eager to rectify the believed to be impure behavior. This free wielding sexuality was deemed an abomination and was strictly prohibited by force. While many did comply to identifying with a singular gender a “third gender” did appear. This 3rd gender continued to practice the indigenous ideologies and hermaphroditeism. Most 3rd genders still play a vital role in society as they are the only ones equip with indigenous knowledge, such as medicine. Worshipping towards Mecca was established quite early and the problem of accurately facing Mecca was rectified through the celestial astrolabe. This piece of machinery is capable of locating Mecca across the galaxy, pin pointing the exact location of devotion. Many devotees also use shrapnel from the original ship, the ship that brought Islam, as a religious artifact used during worship.


Ramadan Mubarak!

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[Image Source: I09]

A somewhat belated Ramadan Mubarak from Islam and Science Fiction. May you all have a blessed month regardless if whatever part of the universe where you live regardless of whichever moon or moons you use to set your lunar calendar(s) or even if you live on a moonless planet or even if you live on any of the moons yourself!

African SF

Muhammadu Bello Kagara’s Gandoki

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While not considered true Science Fiction Muhammadu Bello Kagara’s works may be considered to have elements of proto-Science Fiction. His works from the early 20th century are some of the earliest works of Spelative Fiction in not just Africa but in the rest of the world as well. Anti-colonial themes are an important part of his work which may be one of the reasons why his work did not become well known outside of Nigeria during his lifetime. Here is a synopsis of his novel Gondoki from Io9.

In 1934 the Nigerian Hausa writer Muhammadu Bello Kagara (1890-1971) wrote Ganďoki (1934). In the 19th century, Ganďoki is a brave young Hausa from Kontagora, in northern Nigeria, who opposes the arrival of the British military and the imposition of British rule. He fights against the British, and when the ruler of the city of Kano orders the Hausa to surrender, Ganďoki refuses, and with his brave son Garba Gagare fights a last battle, at Bima Hill, against the British. They both fall asleep, and when they awaken they are in an Africa with jinn and other mythical creatures. Ganďoki and his son fight various battles, successfully, while also converting many people to Islam. They eventually return home.