Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sunday Author Interview: Aliya Anjum - Travel, History and Information You Might Not Know

Recently I did an interview with Robert Lory that seemed popular, so I thought I would do some more interviews, at least on an occasional basis.

I put the call out  on the Kindle Boards, Twitter and a couple of other places for authors with a couple of books.

One of the first writers to touch base with me was Aliya Anjum, author of several recently-released e-books.

It was a real pleasure to learn of Aliya's work.  I was once a religion reporter, so some of her topics took me back to some of my interviews from those days, meeting and chatting with people of many faiths and creeds.

If you read to the end you'll also discover what she has planned next makes her a particularly appropriate interview for my little web corner here on another literary front.

The synopsis on some of your books, and even some of the subtitles note that you are Pakistani, but tell us a little about yourself and your writing background. You write of history and Hollywood and many diverse topics. What prepared you for that.

First of all, thank you for this interview. Coming to your question, briefly, I am a Pakistani author and free lance journalist as well as part time MBA faculty at a business school. I hold a BBA/MBA from The Institute of Business Administration, Karachi and an MS from Philadelphia University, US. I have also worked at a French and a British Bank in Karachi, before going to grad school in US. After my return, I worked for the government of Pakistan and prior to that had a very short stint as a Live TV Show host for a current affairs program.

I have been an avid reader, all my life. After studying in US in the post 9/11 environment, my interest in geo-politics, globalization and history deepened. I started to read up on Islamic history and geo-politics, beginning from Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilisztions". As I read up on history, I got hooked. Even though my studies in US were in Fashion Apparel Management, however, I am not even remotely linked to it.

As for Hollywood, I think most Americans do not realize the global reach of Hollywood. Even prior to cable TV, which is available the world over now, Hollywood movies have been watched on TV and Cinema, everywhere. In many countries including Pakistan, unfortunately, pirated CDs hit the market, simultaneously with its US release. Hollywood is everywhere, in the cinemas, on TV, at CD shops and even on the internet now.

I will also tell you a surprising thing about Hollywood. Contrary to popular belief, Hollywood is US's biggest goodwill ambassador and the US is admired in many ways because of it.

Two weeks of solo travel in Greece: a Pakistani Girl's Diary is called on Amazon a “look at Greece through the eyes of a solo Muslim female traveler.” Tell us a little about the focus of the book.

This book is based on my trip to Greece in October-November 2010. Of late I have been traveling to historically blessed destinations. In 2009, I went to Spain and Turkey to see Muslim history (Spain was under Muslim rule from 751 to 1492. This was Spain's glorious age, in the European dark ages). Coming back to my travels, I visited Greece to see the scientific, philosophical and cultural foundation of the western world. Greece is blessed with natural beauty and a amazing people. My book reflects all of that. It also hints at globalization. The book however, has its feminine moments too, and thus it's a solo female traveler's account.

You have illustrations tied to the book. Tell us a little about some of the images and some of your photography.

I have three slide shows links from the site Tripadvisor wow with about 185 pictures, covering almost everything I mentioned in my book. So if you read my book, and see the pictures, you can visually follow the narrative. The pictures are taken from my Sony Cybershot camera, and I would leave it for my readers to decide upon the quality of the visuals. I am only an amatuer photographer, but I thoroughly enjoyed being click-happy in Greece, which was a sensory overload.

You have looked into Muslim history in a couple of your titles. In Muslim Inventions in the Islamic Golden Age 750-1500 AD you explore some discoveries and scientific information that’s been lost or misinterpreted over the years. Can you give us a little overview of what the book addresses.

This manuscript was awarded a Commendation Certificate by the National Book Foundation, Pakistan.

Islam is unfortunately greatly misunderstood in the US. Political Islam has overtaken and even maligned the scripture and Muslism. Islam is an Abrahamic religion and during the middle ages, the Islamic civilization, was a glorious civilization, which gave impetus to the European Renaissance. Muslims empires ruled over parts of Africa, Asia and even Europe, and the sciences and arts reached new heights in this era.

To elaborate, Bayt-ul-Himkah (House of Wisdom) was a scientific research institution in Baghdad, Iraq where Muslims collected the knowledge of all ancient cultures including Greek works. It was here that Arab Muslims and Jews worked together to greatly build upon existing sciences and created new sciences such as Algebra. Chemistry is also an Arab Muslim invention. Muslim and Jewish Arab surgeons and physicians such as Al-Zahrawi (Albucasis) and Moses Maimonides performed even cosmetic surgeries and treated complicated illnesses. Ibn Sina (Avicenna) created the first medical encyclopedia and his book the Canon, was standard medical text in European universities for 500 years. Muslims also mastered urban planning and wrote literary masterpieces such as the One thousand and one Nights, penned circa 800 AD. Islamic knowledge began to spread to Europe during the Crusades (1099-1192). Otherwise, after the ancient Greeks, the last of whom existed circa 150 AD, there was over a mellinium of the European dark ages.

The Islamic civilization is the bridge that connects ancient Greeks to Renaissance Europe. However, much of this has been lost to history due to colonialism. Interestingly, these facts are being re-discovered and brought to light in European universities and institutions. Science is the collective heritage of humanity.

And in Muhammad’s Wives you look at the 11 wives of Muhammad. That’s an area Westerners and possibly many others don’t know much about. Tell us a little about the book and the wives, and what the information reflects about contemporary life.

Muhammad (peace be upon him) in unfortunately also greatly misunderstood on account of Political Islam. He is often portrayed as a militant misogynist. The widespread poverty and economic backwardness of Muslim countries, also strengthens this negative image.

Muhammad's life is a road map for all Muslims and his role as a husband is thus very important. It would be surprising to note that the book would be equally educational for Muslims as it would be for non-Muslims to know many surprising facts about the wives. Take for example that Ayesha (the infamous child bride, which is something open to debate) is the greatest knowledge bearer of Islam. Her youth and intelligence, served Islam for 38 years after Muhammad passed away. This is iconoclastic for an Abrahamic Religion, when a woman was trusted as such. Then there is Hafsa, who was trusted with the safekeeping of the Quranic (scriptural) text. It was her text that was compiled in the current format of the Quran that you see today. Finally Muhammad, never indulged in physical or psychological abuse and he married widows and divorcees.

The book is a condensed 20 page e-book available for 99 cents, and I would urge people to read it.

What are you working on now? What’s next on the horizon.

All three of my e-books were launched in June 2011. I am currently involved in establishing myself as an author by marketing my books. Interviews such as this one, are a great help. I am at present, completely consumed in this effort, which is labyrinthine, due to the breadth and scope of Social Media. It is especially, hard for a foreign, non-fiction, indie author to create readership. Being so far away, I can't manage any coffesshop or bookshop appearances or a speaking session etc. And then my books are not in the hot selling romance genre either. The internet is my sole medium, but it is a powerful medium.

My next project is going to be a collection of horror short stories, which was actually the first book I penned down. It participated in the National Book Foundation's annual competition, where it was featured in the annual new book selection, a booklet aimed at publishers. It would be my fiction debut and I am looking forward to it.

Thank You!

Thanks to Aliya for dropping by. Check out her books by clicking the links above, or learn more here:

Aliya's titles on Smashwords
Aliya's blog


Charles Gramlich said...

Interesting. Great interview. This is certainly an area I know little about but I do like to learn.

Sidney said...

Thanks, Charles.

encontrar su mueble said...

The writer is totally fair, and there is no question.

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