Recreating Islam’s Golden Age

DSC_0772 Ross School’s annual eighth grade “Banquet at the Alhambra” was celebrated on November 20 this year, with the whole day dedicated to the Golden Age of Islam. The event began in Gandhi Hall, the home base for the day, with a conversation with Ross senior Abdullah Al Samarai. Students asked Abdullah questions about his life in Baghdad and Dubai, and he clarified some of the exaggerations of the differences among Muslims that he found frustrating. He encouraged students to “have the courage to reach out to people who might be different from them.”


Next on the agenda was one of the most important parts of the day: the Islamic Luminaries Press Conferences. Students dressed in full period costume gave “press conferences” based on their research into great men or women who followed the path of Islam and gave their lives to its cause, embodying their subject on stage. This reenactment was broken down into three categories, with three to five personalities in each: Something Old, Something New (three very different family members with strong beliefs and big egos); The Quraysh (the most distinguished luminaries who ran Mecca); and The Greatest (the greatest Islamic thinkers and scientists).


Following the luminaries exhibition, students viewed a slideshow of self-portraits they created in their Visual Arts class. Inspired by Iranian-born American artist Shirin Neshat’s photo collection titled “Women of Allah,” students overlaid their photographs with Persian calligraphy, writing a quote that inspired them on certain parts of their body in Arabic.


After the viewing, students engaged in tournaments of chess, checkers, backgammon, and a game called Al Quequer, a Persian form of checkers. The day concluded with students watching the movie The Arabian Nights (2000) in the Senior Lecture Hall. This movie is a modern-day take on the medieval epic One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of West and South Asian stories and folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age.