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Avicenna - Abu Ali Ibn Sina - On Screen

Balatarin

The persona of Avicenna (Abu Ali Sina) is to appear on screen worldwide later this year in the motion picutre "The Physician (Der Medicus)."  The story is based on a novel by Noah Gordon in which a young man travels from Christendom to Ispahan, Persia, to learn the state of the art in medical knowledge, unavailable in his native medieval England, from the master of his time, Avicenna, who is played by Ben Kingsley.  For purposes of expediency, the English man has to disguise himself as a Jew.  As the German director Philipp Stoelzl puts it in the following interview, the movie is a reminder that "the majority of our culture, as we enjoy it today, has its roots in the Orient: medicine, numbers, astronomy, etc."

 

Trailers of this movie are posted at the bottom.

 

Below are several biographies and discussions of Avicenna's life and work, followed by a couple of decades-old Persian-language historical dramas about him.  Here are short English and Persian biographies of him, respectively.

 

And this is a BBC Radio discussion about his contribution and historical significance.

 

The movie "AbuAli Ibn Sina" is a 1956 Soviet production, in which Avicenna fights for justice and tolerance, and against ignorance and book burning.  (I could not find this film in the IMDB database.)  The following version is in the Tajik dialect of Persian, and so are the writings that appear on screen towards the beginning of the film.  If you familiarize yourself with the pronunciation of the Tajik Cyrillic alphabet and you speak Persian, you should be able to read the on-screen scripts.  E.g., the script at the very beginning of the film recites this poem by Avicenna, and in subsequent scripts the studio location is specified as Tashkent, where the filming was done "on the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of AbuAli Ibn Sina's birth."  (And here is the Russian version of it.)

 

 

The TV series "BuAli Sina" is a 9-part Iranian production circa 1985, directed by Keyhan Rahgozar.

 

 

And here are a couple of trailers for "The Physician."

Balatarin

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trawetsdor

trawetsdor

One can only be proud of something whom one has hands in making. For that matter we should be thankful to Avicenna but cannot be proud of him. Taking pride in our descendants is fair if we have contributed to their livelihood beyond causing their birth because no reproduction is devoid of selfishness; each half of child's genetic pool belongs to one parent.

maghshoosh

maghshoosh

I agree w/ your statements that "One can only be proud of something whom one has hands in making," and that "Taking pride in our descendants is fair if we have contributed to their livelihood beyond causing their birth."

DoostIran

DoostIran

Naturally it is a matter of great pride for us to be from a people with a spectacular history in government, politics, sciences, literature and many other disciplines which, as Iranians, we are all familiar with. However my observation has always been that we, as a people, tend to dwell too much on our glorious past at the expense of our dismal present. Inasmuch our history should never be forgotten or marginalized, we owe it to the future of our people to spend an equal amount of our time and effort on trying to find a way to extricate ourselves from the hell that we are living in be it those who are experiencing it first hand in Iran or those of us expatriates who suffer witnessing the suffering of our people.

maghshoosh

maghshoosh

@DoostIran,

My initial motivation for this blog came from this movie that is to be released this year. It's the Westerners that are shining some light on these figures of the Orient's past. I then decided to expand the blog into a collection of documentary and dramatic videos on Avicenna; I wasn't particularly motivated by historical or national pride.

Furthermore, the mentality and openness that existed during certain periods of medieval Islamic history, which allowed the emergence of figures such as Ibn Sina, can be a point of comparison or contrast with the current situation. History can be didactic.

DoostIran

DoostIran

If you thought that my comment was meant to question your motivation then I apologize for the misunderstanding. It was only intended as an observation on the proclivity present among many of us to incessantly salivate over past glories. Maybe if the Shah was less concerned with what happened 2500 years ago by putting on that obscene show in Persepolis and more with the coming hurricane in his the then present day backyard we would not have been in the mess we are in now. Furthermore, regarding your statement about the mentality and openness during certain periods of medieval Islamic history I contend, and believe, that such openness was in spite of the regressive nature of Islam and solely a function of brilliant and brave individuals who probably were only paying lip service to Islam.

maghshoosh

maghshoosh

@DoostIran,

It doesn't appear accurate to suggest that Avicenna was "only paying lip service to Islam," as he took his theological studies and investigations seriously:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avicenna#Theology

Scientists, like others, are products of their times, and can be influenced by the dogmas of their societies. E.g., consider Isaac Newton or Leonhard Euler, two of the greatest scientists of all time, who, nevertheless, had religious (Christian) beliefs and published about such views. In contrast, since the 20th century, majority of scientists in Europe & the West have been secular. They reflect the tendencies of their respective societies. But good scientists have been able to separate logic- and empirically-based investigations of the natural world from their religious beliefs, and their more tolerant societies have allowed them to indulge in such practices.

I haven't read "The Physician," but in one of the trailers posted above, there is a brief scene where Avicenna, apparently talking to his Christian apprentice, says that what the apprentice is suggesting is against the laws of Islam, Christianity & Judaism. I would guess that he's talking about dissection of bodies, which doesn't seem to have been done much, if at all, by Muslim physicians. If so, that would be one example of Avicenna's religious beliefs hampering his scientific investigations.

BB

Mr. B

"The Physician" is one of my all time favorite books. However for those who have problems with the Jewish and the English, Spoiler Alert:

The story is about a young English boy who early on finds his calling for medicine. At that time, only Jews were doctors. It was considered a low job. He learns that the best teacher in the world to learn about medicine was Avicenna, in Isfahan. And he embarks on the long journey from england to Persia/Iran. Pretending to be a Jew the whole way.

So those of you who have problems with any of this, please temper your flares, and try and see past it. It is a wonderful story, and for once, we win in the end.

maghshoosh

maghshoosh

@BB,

Since my last reply, I looked at Wikipedia's description of the story:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Physician
according to which "... the schools [in Islamdom] do not admit Christians - and even if they did, no country in Christendom would allow a person with such heathen learning to return ... [So] Rob decides that he shall take on the guise of a Jewish student, so that he can travel to Persia and study at the feet of Avicenna." In other words, the interpretation of the story line both by you and the Iranian websites I referenced have merit; the schools wouldn't take Christians and Christian Europe looked down on trained physicians.

But I wonder how much of each assertion is historically accurate.

maghshoosh

maghshoosh

@BB,

I haven't read the book, but, based on your comment, the English man has to disguise himself as a Jew in order to circumvent prejudiced views of his fellow Christians. However, some conservative (pro-gov't) websites in Iran have interpreted the Jewish-guise issue differently, as you can see at
http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=13910522000503
and
http://www.avinyfilm.com/main/index.php?Page=definition&UID=2311759

They claim that in the story the Christian man has to pose as a Jew b/c in Islamic Persia of the time, Christians, unlike Jews, were not allowed to study or practice medicine. In other words, they claim that the story (unfairly) places the prejudice in Islamdom, while you claim it places it in Christendom! Somebody's misunderstood the book.

M.SaadatNoury

M. Saadat Noury 1. Life Story and Photo: http://othervoicespoetry.org/vol29/noury/bio.html == 2. Poetry Anthology: http://saadatnoury.blogspot.ca/ =================== 3. Selected Articles: http://msnselectedarticles.blogspot.ca/

Thank for the post and here are some more to read:

First World-Famous Iranian Physician: Pur Sina
http://iranian.com/main/blog/m-saadat-noury/first-world-famous-iranian-physician-pur-sina.html

گلچینی از سروده های "پورسینا" فیلسوف و پزشک نامدار ایران
http://asre-nou.net/php/view.php?objnr=22965