Saturday, September 26, 2009

Guénon on Egyptian television

Guénon has finally appeared in an Egyptian soap opera!

Hatsuki Aishima, a scholar working on Abd al-Halim Mahmud (1910-78), a celebrated rector of the Azhar in the 1970s, found Guénon in a multipart Ramadan soap opera devoted to the life of Abd al-Halim Mahmud.

Of course, one has to simplify a bit for television. Guénon was not the only Frenchman who Abd al-Halim Mahmud knew. The other was Louis Massignon, the celebrated scholar of Islam who taught him at the Sorbonne. So Guénon and Massignon, who did not think highly of each other, are combined uncomfortably into one person, Frédéric.

In the soap, Guénon-Massignon converts to Islam in Paris after reading the Quran with Abd al-Halim Mahmud, and then moves to Cairo, where he lives as a pious recluse in a villa in Dokki, working on ancient Islamic manuscripts. Well, sort of.

The soap not only manages to introduce Guénon to Egyptian television viewers without referring to Traditionalism, but even manages to deal with Sufism without referring to Sufism--reducing it simply to generic piety, ignoring altogether anything that might seem controversial today. That's modernity for you!

Source: Hatsuki Aishima, "Producing a National Icon through the Mass Mediated Hagiography: al-`Arif billah al-Imam `Abd al-Halim Mahmud and Sufism in the Egyptian TV Serials," paper given at a conference on "Islamic Resurgence in the Age of Globalization: Myth, Memory, Emotion," held at the NTNU, Trondheim, September 4-6, 2009.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Professor Sedgwick and friends:

A possible resource for those interested in Egypt and its appeal to Guenon would be E W Lane's Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, first published in 1860 and based on Lanes observations during the time he lived in Egypt from about 1825 to 1840 or so.

Lane learned Arabic, lived and dressed as a denizen, and has been accused of acting deceptively by critics of what is now termed 'Orientalism.'

But Lane was a sympathetic observer and a very talented artist and his illustrations are, cosmetics, musical instruments, architectural plans, street scenes, patterns for tiles and court yards, even wooden screens for windows.

Lane's book has, thankfully, been republished many times and is still an affordable delight. It may help us understand part of what has led Guenon and others, to fall in love with old Cairo.