Saudi novelist puts new twist on history of modern sciences

Saudi novelist puts new twist on history of modern sciences
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Ashraf Fagih, the sci-fi and historical fiction author, has introduced a distinctive style of creative writing to Saudi readers. (Photos/Supplied)
Saudi novelist puts new twist on history of modern sciences
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Updated 26 January 2021

Saudi novelist puts new twist on history of modern sciences

Saudi novelist puts new twist on history of modern sciences
  • New chapter in Arabic literature introduces a fusion of science and history to readers

JEDDAH: A new chapter in Arabic literature is opening up as more writers give a modern twist to old science.
Time-honored styles and subject matters are steadily being replaced and expanded upon as Arab wordsmiths and readers explore creative new dimensions to storytelling.
Authors are boldly publishing books in genres once undermined and, in the process, are unwittingly encouraging others to follow suit.
The creation of numerals to represent the abstract entities known as numbers has been hailed as one of the most significant intellectual achievements in human history.
And Saudi author and computer science professor, Ashraf Fagih, claims that the discovery of zero, the acknowledgement of the abstract idea of counting nothing into our lives, and the mental image of the universe, opened the gateway to modern sciences.
The sci-fi and historical fiction author has introduced a distinctive style of creative writing to Saudi readers and in his latest novel has merged two genres into a story where zero is the hero.
“Rasm Al-Adam” or “Portrait of the Void” delves into an eventful period in history through the tale of 13th-century Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci and the emergence of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system, the most common system for the symbolic representation of numbers in the world.
Fagih looks at Arab and Islamic history from a new angle, focusing on a non-Muslim and non-Arab figure who was deeply influenced by the culture and inviting Arab readers to rediscover themselves and their heritage.

Science fiction is getting bigger here in Arabia thanks to Netflix and dramas.

Ashraf Fagih

The invention of zero represented a tremendous conceptual leap in the history of mathematics. “‘Portrait of the Void’ is my elaborative way to say zero,” Fagih told Arab News.
“In order to understand the beauty and strength of our civilization we need to study the characters of Richard the Lionheart, Genghis Khan, Timur, Charlemagne, and others who are not necessarily Arabs or Muslims, but their lives were either based in our lands or on our values, and Fibonacci is a perfect example.”
He also aimed to emphasize that identities were multifaceted and dimensioned.
“I wanted to deliver an unconventional image of a real history, a true history, and a society that did exist and wasn’t as flat as one would think,” he said.

FASTFACT

Ashraf Fagih was one of the first writers to introduce the genre of science fiction to the Saudi reader through his short story collection, ‘The Ghost Hunter.’

Fagih was one of the first writers to introduce the genre of science fiction to the Arabic reader through his short story collection, “The Ghost Hunter.” However, since 2012, his works have been more influenced by history and geared to market demands.
“Our culture is not futuristic. When we plan for our futures we don’t look ahead; instead, we look back and mimic those who came before us,” he added.
“Society is growing, a big group of readers, academicians, and educated people who speak physics and math, and other fields are there, but they still represent a minority.”
He pointed out that in the US, for example, the genre of art was well-established because it was not just limited to entertainment but was part of the nation’s culture and was related to the economy, education, and jobs market.
“Science fiction is getting bigger here in Arabia thanks to Netflix and dramas but as a literature branch, although there are some works written, they are still not written in the most beautiful language, and beauty is part of literature,” Fagih said.
He noted Arabic readers were “fascinated in their past” and could relate to the historical genre, and that allowed him to promote science in literature to a wider readership with a more traditional taste.
“Science fiction is still my passion, and I believe that I do have a vision that I can play a bigger role in the Arabic science fiction genre,” he added.




“Rasm Al-Adam” or “Portrait of the Void” delves into an eventful period in history through the tale of 13th-century Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci.

Although unable to be at home during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, the sense of solitude it brought about provided him with the focus to convert his ideas into the novel, which he completed in three months.
In “Portrait of the Void” he attempts to reflect the spiritual and intellectual beginnings of human realization of the notion of zero and summarizes the paradox it created which had its impact on the evolution of knowledge, philosophy, and modern science.
“The famous mathematician (Gottfried Wilhelm) Leibniz, a contemporary to Isaac Newton, said there were two simple absolutes: God and nothingness,” said Fagih.
Although he had been researching the topic since 2015, Fagih did not begin writing until last year.
Coming from South Asia, zero crossed into the Middle East, where it was championed by Islamic scholars, and created part of the Arabic number system used today. However, it found resistance in Europe and was not fully accepted as a proper number until 400 years after Fibonacci.
Fagih said the Hindu-Arabic system was opposed by the Church because it contained zero and was different to the Roman Empire’s established numeral system, making the conflict over the acknowledgement of zero both philosophical and religious.
While having scientific subject matter, “Portrait of the Void” is not short on drama, human suffering, and tragedy.
“It’s about someone living in the 13th century trying to solve formulas and explain them with very primitive mathematical language. From this part, this novel is more appealing to the nerds, geeks, and science gurus. However, it is not just limited to this audience,” he added.
The story’s main character, Fibonacci, lived in a time when Andalusia was falling, and Arabs were being forced to leave the island of Sicily after centuries living there due to the Crusades launched against Muslim-ruled lands.
Fagih hopes that by giving a scientific twist to rich historical context he can introduce readers to a new literature experience while helping them better understand Arabic scientific heritage.

 


Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination

Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination
Updated 48 min 53 sec ago

Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination

Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination
  • King Salman ordered a speedy transfer
  • The conjoined twins are expected to arrive within the next few days

DUBAI: Yemeni conjoined twins “Yousuf and Yassin” will finally get the necessary medical examinations they need after King Salman ordered for their direct transfer from Yemen to Riyadh for the possibility of a separation surgery.
King Salman ordered a speedy transfer for the twins and their parents, the General Supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center and renowned pediatric surgeon Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rabiah said.
The conjoined twins are expected to arrive within the next few days, state news agency SPA reported on Sunday.
King Salman has previously ordered the transfer of conjoined twins from Mauritania to travel to Saudi Arabia to separate them. Their father, who accompanied them, said the procedures for transferring the twins to Riyadh were carried out easily.


Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident

Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident
Updated 19 April 2021

Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident

Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident
  • The train accident left 97 wounded after it derailed off its tracks

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it expresses its deep sorrow for the train accident north of the Egyptian capital Cairo.
A passenger train derailed earlier on Sunday in the city of Toukh in Qalyubia province, injuring around 100 people.
“The Kingdom expresses its sincere condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims, and to the Egyptian leadership, government and people, wishing the injured a speedy recovery,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Four train wagons ran off the railway while the train was traveling to the Nile Delta city of Mansoura from Cairo, Egypt’s railway authority said.
(With AP)


Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region

Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region
Updated 19 April 2021

Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region

Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region

JEDDAH: Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman met with the special envoy of the British prime minister for the Gulf Region, Edward Lister, early Monday in Jeddah.

During the meeting, they looked into ways to enhance Saudi-UK bilateral relations and discussed regional and international events of common interest.

The meeting was attended by Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Saudi ambassador to the UK; Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan; Minister of Commerce and Minister of Information-designate Majid Al-Qasabi, as well as the British ambassador to the Kingdom, Neil Crompton.


‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns
A Saudi woman walks on a social distancing marker at a shopping center, as preventive measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 3, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 April 2021

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns
  • Makkah police arrest 13 people for violating isolation, quarantine instructions

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced on Sunday that authorities have detected a surge of “worrying” behaviors in the Kingdom since the beginning of Ramadan, warning citizens to avoid ignoring anti-coronavirus health measures.

At a joint press conference between the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, MoI spokesperson Lt. Col. Talal Al-Shalhoub warned that the rising number of coronavirus cases in the Kingdom could potentially lead to citywide lockdowns, as well as the banning of certain activities.
“We must cooperate and not trivialize the dangers. We do not want to have to resort to tough measures,” he said.
Al-Shalhoub added that the Kingdom was continuing to crack down on rule-breakers and those who violate safety precautions, including people using social media to spread misinformation about safety measures and ways to circumvent them.
Meanwhile, Makkah’s regional police spokesman said that 13 people were arrested in Jeddah and Taif for violating isolation and quarantine instructions after they tested positive for coronavirus.
Preliminary legal procedures were taken against them and their cases were referred to the Public Prosecution. The MoI previously warned that violators will face up to a two-year prison sentence, a fine of up to SR200,000 ($53,300), or both.
Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly revealed that the Kingdom has seen a slight rise in the percentage of women contracting coronavirus, warning that the number of women coming forward to be vaccinated was lower than expected.
“We have also seen a rise in the number of female cases that become critical and end up needing intensive care. Women also make up 55 percent of the overall number of cases in the Kingdom,” he said.
The MoH announced that 917 new coronavirus cases were reported on Saturday, raising the total number of cases to 404,970.
There are now 9,445 active cases, 1,044 of which are in critical care.

INNUMBERS

404,970 Total cases

388,702 Recoveries

6,823 Deaths

Of the new cases, 402 were in Riyadh, 203 in Makkah and 131 in the Eastern Province. Baha and Jouf reported the lowest cases on Saturday, with just six cases each.
Al-Aly said that appointments for second vaccine doses would be automatically updated, following news that some appointments had been canceled. The Saudi strategy aims to immunize the largest number of people possible with at least the first dose, Al-Aly added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that more than 15 million people have benefited from its Eatmarna app.
The ministry said that only people who have taken at least the first dose of the vaccine will be permitted to perform Umrah, or pray at either the Grand Mosque in Makkah or the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Violators will be prosecuted for attempting to perform the pilgrimage without the proper permissions, officials said, adding that authorities are encouraging safety precautions in order to ensure safe, smooth, and seamless pilgrimages for all visitors.
There were 907 new recoveries reported in the Kingdom, raising the total number of recoveries over the course of the pandemic to 388,702. The Kingdom’s death toll rose to 6,823 after 13 new coronavirus-related deaths were recorded.
Almost 7.1 million coronavirus vaccines have been administered in Saudi Arabia so far.

The Kingdom is now delivering vaccines at a rate of about 1.32 per second, or 114,471 each day. About 20.3 percent of the Saudi population have now been vaccinated.

The last day saw the completion of 51,225 PCR tests, bringing the total number of tests conducted in the Kingdom to 16,174,957.

 


Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases
Updated 19 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases
  • The authority said crimes of financial and administrative corruption do not fall under the statute of limitations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Oversight and Anti-corruption Authority (Nazaha) said on Sunday it had initiated a number of criminal cases and legal procedures.
Among the most prominent cases, a retired major general and two retired employees from the Ministry of National Guard were arrested for obtaining SR198 million ($52.8 million) from local companies and one foreign company in return for helping them win contracts.
In the second case, the former director general of projects at the Ministry of Higher Education and five businessmen were accused of establishing companies and obtaining ministry projects through them, exaggerating prices, obligating other companies contracted with the ministry to deal with them, and obtaining funds. Work is underway to calculate the amount of money that was embezzled.
In the third case, an employee working for the Foreign Ministry was arrested for having disbursed approximately SR733,000, in an irregular manner, from an account of one of the Kingdom’s embassies.
In the fourth case, an employee of the Ministry of Information was arrested for issuing 328 media licenses and receiving around SR700,000.
Two employees at a regional branch of the Ministry of Finance were suspended after two citizens bribed them with SR126,000 out of a total amount of SR8 million agreed upon, in return for facilitating payment of financial compensation.
In the sixth case, three employees in the Education Department in one of the governorates were suspended for obtaining SR624,000 in cash installments from a businessman in exchange for facilitating access to seven projects amounting to SR3.2 million.
The seventh case was in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, where a notary was arrested in one of the regions for issuing a lost deed in an irregular manner to one of his relatives.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, an officer with the rank of captain working in a regional branch of the General Directorate for Narcotics Control was arrested for obtaining SR35,000 from an expatriate, in exchange for holding a case related to his brother.
A further case involved a bank employee in one of the Kingdom’s governorates who was suspended for obtaining SR21,000 from some of the bank’s clients in exchange for completing their financing procedures.
And the last case involved two employees working in a municipality who were arrested for receiving SR25,000.