Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A00056 - Ibn al-Shatir, The "Father" of Copernicus' Theory

Ala Al-Din Abu'l-Hasan Ali Ibn Ibrahim Ibn al-Shatir (1304 – 1375) (Arabic: ابن الشاطر‎) was an Arab Muslim astronomer, mathematician, engineer and inventor who worked as muwaqqit (موقت, religious timekeeper) at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria.
Ibn al-Shatir conducted extensive observations which led to some of his theoretical contributions, designed and constructed new instruments, and made advanced contributions to Islamic astronomy in the field of planetary theory.
His most important astronomical treatise was the Kitāb Nihāyat al-Suʾāl fī Taṣḥīḥ al-ʾUṣūl (كتاب نهاية السؤال في تصحيح الأصول - The Final Quest Concerning the Rectification of Principles), in which he drastically reformed the Ptolemaic models of the Sun, Moon, and planets. While previous Maragha school models were just as accurate as the Ptolemaic model, Ibn al-Shatir's geometrical model was the first that was actually superior to the Ptolemaic model in terms of its better agreement with both contemporary theory and empirical observations. 
Experimentally Ibn al-Shatir employed careful eclipse observations to measure the apparent size of the Sun and Moon and found that they disagreed with Ptolemaic expectations. His work on his experiments and observations (e.g. Ta'liq al-arsad, or Accounting for Observations) has not survived, but there are references to it in his Final Quest Concerning the Rectification of Principles.
Theoretically, Ibn al-Shatir objected to Aristotle's ether, in its eternal uniformity, and argued that if one grants that the heavens must allow for a variation in composition then there's no reason to reject epicycles, while agreeing that equants and eccentrics, which violated Aristotelian principles of uniform circular motion and gravity, were impossible. He then built a model that by adding new epicycles utilizing the Tusi-couple eliminated entirely the epicycle in the solar model, the eccentrics and equants in the planetary models, and the eccentric, epicycles and equant in the lunar model. The resulting model was one in which the Earth was at the exact center of the universe around which all heavenly bodies moved in uniform circular motions, remained as accurate as Ptolemy in predicting the paths of heavenly bodies, and improved on Ptolemy by accurately predicting the apparent size and distance of the Sun and Moon.
By creating the first model of the cosmos in which physical theory, mathematical model, and empirical observation were in agreement, Ibn al-Shatir marked a turning point in astronomy which may be considered a "Scientific Revolution before the Renaissance".
Although his system was firmly geocentric — he had eliminated the Ptolemaic equant and eccentrics  — the mathematical details of his system encompassed those in Nicolaus Copernicus' De revolutionibus, which had retained the Ptolemaic eccentric.  Copernicus' lunar model was identical to the lunar model of al-Shatir.  It is noted that in Copernicus' Commentariolus that his model of Mercury is mistaken, and that since it is Ibn al-Shatir's model, this is further evidence, and perhaps the best evidence, that Copernicus was in fact copying without full understanding from some other source. All this suggests that Ibn al-Shatir's model may have influenced, if indirectly, Copernicus while constructing the latter's heliocentric model. How Copernicus would have come across al-Shatir's work, exactly, remains an open question, but there are some number of possible routes for first or secondhand transmission.
Ibn al-Shatir constructed a magnificent sundial for the minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus which gave both seasonal and equinoctial hours. The fragments of this sundial in a Damascus museum make this the oldest polar-axis sundial still in existence.
Ibn al-Shatir made a timekeeping device incorporating both a universal sundial and a magnetic compass. 
The compendium, a multi-purpose astronomical instrument, was first constructed by Ibn al-Shatir. His compendium featured an alhidade and polar sundial among other things. These compendia later became popular in Renaissance Europe.
Ibn al-Shatir described another astronomical instrument which he called the "universal instrument" in his Rays of light on operations with the universal instrument (al-ʾashiʿʿa al-lāmiʿa fī al-ʿamal bi-l-āla al-jāmiʿa). A commentary on this work entitled Book of Ripe Fruits from Clusters of Universal Instrument (Kitāb al-thimār al-yāni'a ʿan qutāf al-āla al-jāmiʿa) was later written by the Ottoman astronomer and engineer Taqi al-Din, who employed the instrument at the Istanbul observatory of Taqi al-Din from 1577-1580.

In the case of lunar motion, Ibn al-Shatir corrected Ptolemy, whose imagined Moon approached far closer to the Earth than did the actual Moon.

Many believe that astronomy died with the Greeks, and was brought back to life again by Copernicus, the 15th century Polish astronomer who is famous for introducing the Sun-centered (heliocentric) theory of the solar system, which marked the beginning of modern astronomy.

However, many historians now think it is not a coincidence that his models of planetary theory are mathematically identical to those prepared by Ibn al-Shatir over a century before him.  It is known that Copernicus relied heavily on the comprehensive astronomical treatise by al-Battani, which included star catalogues and planetary tables.

The mathematical devices discovered by Muslims before Copernicus, referred to in modern terms as linkages of constant length vectors rotating at constant angular velocities, are exactly the same as those used by Copernicus.  The only, but important, differences between the two was that the Muslims' Earth was fixed in space, whereas Copernicus had it orbiting around the Sun.  Copernicus also used instruments which were particular to astronomy in the East, like the parallactic ruler, which had previously only been used in Samarkand and Maragha Observatories.

Monday, February 2, 2015

A00055 - Abdullah, Shrewd King Who Reshaped Saudi Arabia

Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Abdullah, also spelled ʿAbd Allāh, in full Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud or Abdullah ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz    (b. c. 1923— d. January 23, 2015, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), was king of Saudi Arabia from 2005 to 2015. As crown prince (1982–2005), he served as the country’s de facto ruler following the 1995 stroke of his half brother King Fahd (r. 1982–2005).  Abdullah was one of King ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Sa'ud's 37 sons. For his support of Crown Prince Faysal (1964–75) during Fayṣal’s power struggle with King Sa'ud (1953–64), Abdullah was rewarded in 1962 with command of the Saudi National Guard. In 1975 King Khalid (1975–82), Fayṣal’s successor, appointed him deputy prime minister and, in 1982, King Fahd appointed him crown prince and first deputy prime minister. In 1995, Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke, and Abdullah briefly served as regent the following year. Although Fahd subsequently returned to power, Abdullah ran the daily affairs of the country and became king after Fahd died in 2005.

Abdullah was committed to preserving Arab interests, but he also sought to maintain strong ties with the West, especially with the United States. In 2001, relations between the two countries grew strained over Saudi claims that the United States government was not evenhanded in its approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The situation worsened later in the year, following the September 11 attacks against the United States and the subsequent revelation that most of the attackers were Saudi nationals. Abdullah condemned the attacks and, in a move to improve relations, proposed a peace initiative that was adopted at the 2002 Arab summit meeting. The plan called upon Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories (the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights) and promised in return a full Arab normalization of relations with the Jewish country. Tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia resurfaced, however, after Abdullah refused to support a United States-led attack on Iraq or to allow the use of Saudi military facilities for such an act.

On the domestic front, Abdullah introduced a program of moderate reform to address a number of challenges facing Saudi Arabia. The country’s continued reliance on oil revenue was of particular concern, and among the economic reforms he introduced were limited deregulation, foreign investment, and privatization. He originally sought to placate extreme Islamist voices—many of which sought to end the Saʿūdī dynasty’s rule—yet the spectre of anti-Saudi and anti-Western violence within the country’s borders led him, for the first time, to order the use of force by the security services against some extremists. At the same time, in 2005, Abdullah responded to demands for greater political inclusiveness by holding the country’s first municipal elections, based on adult male suffrage. Uncertainty surrounding succession in the kingdom was a further source of domestic concern, and late the following year Abdullah issued a new law refining the country’s succession policies. Among the changes was the establishment of an Allegiance Commission, a council of Saudi princes meant to participate in the selection of a crown prince—previously the task of the king alone—and to oversee a smooth transition of power.

In February 2009, Abdullah enacted a series of broad governmental changes, which affected areas such as the judiciary, armed forces, and various ministries. Notable among his decisions were the replacement of senior individuals within the judiciary and the religious police with more moderate candidates and the appointment of the country’s first female deputy minister, who was charged with overseeing girls’ education. Upon Abdullah's death in 2015, his half-brother Salman was appointed king.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A00054 - Faten Hamama, First Lady of the Arabic Screen

Hamama, Faten
Faten Hamama (Arabic: فاتن حمامة‎, Fātan Ḥamāmah, 27 May 1931 – 17 January 2015) was an Egyptian  film and television actress and producer.
She made her screen debut in 1939, when she was only seven years old. Her earliest roles were minor, but her activity and gradual success helped to establish her as a distinguished Egyptian actress. Eventually, and after many successful performances, she was able to achieve stardom. Revered as an icon in Egyptian and Middle Eastern cinema, Hamama substantially helped in improving the cinema industry in Egypt and emphasized the importance of women in cinema and Egyptian society.
After a seven-year hiatus from acting, Hamama returned in 2000 in what was a much anticipated television mini-series, Wajh al-Qamar (وجه القمر, Face of the Moon). In 2000, she was selected as Star of the Century by the Egyptian Writers and Critics organization. In 2007, eight of the films she starred in were included in the top 100 films in the history of Egyptian cinema by the cinema committee of the Supreme Council of Culture in Cairo.
Faten Hamama was born in 1931 to a Muslim lower middle class family in Mansoura, Egypt (according to her birth certificate), but she claimed to have been born in the Abdeen quarter of Cairo. Her father, Ahmed Hamama, worked as a clerk in the Egyptian Ministry of Education and her mother was a housewife. She had an older brother, Muneer, a younger sister, Layla, and a younger brother, Mazhar. Her aspiration for acting arose at an early age. Hamama was influenced by Assia Dagher as a child. When she was six years old, her father took her to the theater to see an Assia Dagher film; when the audience clapped for Assia, Faten told her father she felt they were clapping for her.
When Faten won a children's beauty pageant in Egypt, her father sent her picture to the director Mohammed Karim who was looking for a young female child to play the role of a small girl with the famous actor and musician Mohamed Abdel Wahab in the film Yawm Said (يوم سعيد, Happy Day, 1939). After an audition, Abdel Wahab decided that Faten was the one he was looking for. After her role in the film, people called her "Egypt's own Shirley Temple". The director liked her acting and was impressed with her so much that he signed a contract with her father. Four years later, she was chosen by Kareem for another role with Abdel Wahab in the film Rossassa Fel Qalb (رصاصة في القلب,Bullet in the Heart, 1944) and in another film two years later, Dunya (دنيا, Universe, 1946). After her success, Hamama moved with her parents to Cairo and started her study in the High Institute of Acting in 1946.
Youssef Wahbi, an Egyptian actor and director, recognized the young actress's talent so he offered her a lead role in the 1946 film Malak al-Rahma (ملاك الرحمة, Angel of Mercy). The film attracted widespread media attention, and Hamama, who was only 15 at the time, became famous for her melodramatic role. In 1949, Hamama had roles in three films with Wahbi: Kursi Al-I'etraf (كرسي الاعتراف, Chair of Confession), Al-Yateematain (اليتيمتين, The Two Orphans), and Sït Al-Bayt (ست البيت, Lady of the House). All were successful films.
The 1950s were the beginning of the golden age of the Egyptian cinema industry and Hamama was a big part of it. In 1952 she starred in the film Lak Yawm Ya Zalem (لك يوم يا ظالم, Your Day will Come) which was nominated at the Cannes Film Festival for the Prix International award. She also played lead roles in Yousef Shaheen's Baba Ameen(بابا أمين, Ameen, my Father, 1950) and Sira' Fi Al-Wadi (صراع في الوادي, Struggle in the Valley, 1954) which was a strong nominee in the 1954 Cannes Film Festival for the Prix International award. Hamama is also known for playing the lead role in the first Egyptian mystery film Manzel Raqam 13 (منزل رقم 13, House Number 13). In 1963, she received an award for her role in the political film La Waqt Lel Hob (لا وقت للحب, No Time for Love). Hamama was also able to make it to Hollywood; in 1963 she had a role in the crime film, Cairo.
In 1947, Hamama married actor/director Ezzel Dine Zulficar while filming the Abu Zayd al-Hilali (أبو زيد الهلالي) film. They started a production company which produced the film Maw'ed Ma' Al-Hayat (موعد مع الحياة, Date with Life) in which she starred. This particular film earned her the title of the "lady of the Arabic screen". She divorced Zulficar in 1954. One year later, she married Egyptian film star Omar Sharif.  Hamama continued to act in films directed by her first husband.

In 1954, while filming a Youssef Chahine film, Struggle in the Valley, Hamama refused to have the Egyptian actor Shukry Sarhan as a co-star, and Chahine offered Omar Sharif the role. Omar had just graduated from college then and was working for his father; Hamama accepted him as her co-star. Hamama had never agreed to act any scene involving a kiss in her career, but she shockingly agreed to do so in this film. The two fell in love, and Sharif converted to Islam and married her. This marriage started a new era of Hamama's career as the couple made many films together. Sharif and Hamama were the romantic leads of Ayyamna Al-Holwa (أيامنا الحلوة, Our Sweet Days), Ardh Al-Salam (أرض السلام, Land of Peace), La Anam (لا أنام, Sleepless), and Sayyidat Al-Qasr (سيدة القصر, The Lady of the Palace). Their last film together, before their divorce, was Nahr Al-Hob (نهر الحب, The River of Love) in 1960.

Hamama left Egypt from 1966 to 1971 due to the harassment by Egyptian Intelligence. She had been a supporter of the 1952 Revolution, but later became an opponent of the Free Officers and their oppressive regime.  Consequently, she was forbidden to travel or participate in film festivals. She was only able to leave Egypt after many controversial disputes.
While Hamama was away, then President Gamal Abdel Nasser asked famous writers, journalists and friends to try to convince her to return to Egypt. He called her a "national treasure" and had even awarded her an honorary decoration in 1965. However, she would not return until 1971, after Nasser's death.

Hamama played roles conveying messages of democracy. She often criticized the laws in Egypt in her films. In the 1972 film Imbarotiriyat Meem (إمبراطورية ميم, The Empire of M), Hamama presented a pro-democratic point of view and received an award from the Soviet Union of Women in the Moscow International Festival. Her most significant political film was Oridu Hallan (أريد حلاً, I Want a Solution). In this film, she criticized laws governing marriage and divorce in Egypt. After the film, the Egyptian government abrogated a law that forbade wives from divorcing their husbands, therefore allowing khul'.

As Hamama became older, her acting roles declined and she made fewer films compared to earlier in her career, but nevertheless the films she was able to make tended to be successful. She made her first television appearances in her late career. She starred in the TV mini-series Dameer Ablah Hikmat (ضمير أبلة حكمت, Mrs. Hikmat's Conscience).
After 1993, her career came to a halt. It was not until 2000 that she returned in the successful TV mini-series Wajh ِِal-Qamar which was broadcast on 23 TV channels in the Middle East. In this mini-series, Hamama portrayed and criticized many problems in Egyptian and Middle Eastern society. Despite some criticisms, the mini-series received much praise and acclaim. Hamama was awarded the Egyptian Best TV Actor of the Year and the mini-series won the Best TV Series Award in the Egyptian Radio and Television Festival. 

Before the 1950s, Hamama had leading roles in 30 films, in which she often played the role of a weak, empathetic, poor girl. After the 1950s, Hamama was in search of her real identity and was trying to establish herself as a distinct figure. During this period, her choice of material and roles was somewhat limited. However, film producers soon capitalized on her popularity with audiences in local and Middle Eastern markets and she began to play realistic, strong women, such as in Sira' Fi Al-Wadi (صراع في الوادي,Struggle in the Valley, 1954) where she portrayed a rich man's daughter who, contrary to stereotype, was a realistic woman who helped and supported the poor. In the 1952 film Miss Fatmah (الأستاذة فاطمة), Hamama starred as a law student who believed women were as important as men in society.
In Imbratoriyat Meem (امبراطورية ميم, The Empire of M), she played the role of a widow who takes care of her large family and suffers hardship. Her most influential film was Oridu Hallan (أريد حلا, I Want a Solution) which criticized the laws of marriage and divorce in Egypt. A law in Egypt that forbade khul' ( خلع ) – a divorce initiated by the wife.
Most critics agree that Hamama's most challenging role was in the 1959 film Dua'e Al-Karawan (دعاء الكروان, The Nightingale's Prayer), which was chosen as one of the best Egyptian film productions. It is based on the novel by the same name by the prominent Egyptian writer Taha Hussein. In this film, Hamama played the role of Amnah, a young woman who seeks revenge from her uncle for the honor killing of her sister. After this film, Hamama carefully picked her roles. In 1960, she starred in the film Nahr Hob (نهر حب, Love River) which was based on Leo Tolstoy's well known novel Anna Karenina and in 1961, she played the lead role in the film La Tutf'e al-Shams (لا تطفئ الشمس, Don't Turn Off the Sun) based on the novel by Ihsan Abdel Quddous.

Faten Hamama died on January 17, 2015, aged 83 due to health problems. Her son Tarek Sharif did not state the exact cause of death.

Hamama met director Ezzel Dine Zulficar, while filming Abu Zayd al-Hilali (أبو زيد الهلالى) in 1947, fell in love and wed. The marriage lasted for seven years. They divorced in 1954. The two remained friends, and Hamama continued to star in his films after the divorce. They had one child, a daughter, Nadia Zulficar. In 1954, Hamama chose Omar Sharif to co-star with her in a film. In this film, she uncharacteristically agreed to a romantic scene involving a kiss. During the filming, they fell in love. Sharif converted to Islam and married her. The couple co-starred in many films. However, after nearly two decades together, the couple divorced in 1974; they had one son, Tarek Sharif.
Hamama later married Dr Mohamed Abdel Wahab Mahmoud, an Egyptian physician. They resided in Cairo until her death on January 17, 2015 following a short illness.
Throughout Hamama's career, she received numerous accolades for best actress, and was nominated for the Cannes Film Festival's Prix International for her role in 1950's Your Day Will Come. She received her first award in 1951 for her role in I'm the Past. The country's Ministry of Guidance also awarded her the title of Best Actress in both 1955 and 1961. These were followed by many different awards for best actress from various national and international events. International ones included special awards for acting at the first Tehran International Film Festival in 1972 for her role in The Thin Thread, and in 1977 for her role in Mouths and Rabbits. In 1973, she received the Special Award at the Moscow International Film Festival for her role in Empire M. Other international accolades include the Best Actress awards at the Jakarta Film Festival in 1963 for her role in The Open Door, and at the Carthage Film Festival in 1988 for her role in Bitter Days, Nice Days.

Hamama was also a recipient of the Lebanese Order of Merit in 1984 for her role in The Night of Fatma's Arrest. She was later presented lifetime achievement awards, including one at the Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival in 1993, and another at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2009. In 2001, the Egyptian Writers and Critics Organization chose her as "Star of the Century" at the Alexandria International Film Festival, honoring  her lengthy career in Egyptian cinema.