Immortality, man’s secret and grandeur

Turki Aldakhil
Turki Aldakhil
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The road to immorality seems confusing and dangerous when one embarks on it himself, and it becomes more deserving when time repudiates it and when others appreciate one because they’re worthy of appreciation. The more I link greatness with immortality examples fail me as even if the result is one, the roads seem different like the difference between night and day!

What makes me very reassured is that each person has his own list of great people. When we talk about immortality, the list seems shorter and more specific. Each people have their own great figures but those who are immortal, whether these people agree on them or not, are few. Between this and that, there are characteristics that grant some great men the right to immortality more than others.

I will not engage in the controversy of definitions this time but I am very keen on warning of two things: dangerous ideas and seeking immortality as a way of life!

In every immortal’s life – whether he’s alive or dead – there is a pivotal idea that changed his life and the life of those who defend the idea that he deserves to be remembered for long. Sometimes it’s not an idea but a stance that’s only few seconds in duration but which effect is deep to the extent that it immortalizers the doer.

Personally speaking, I am impressed by inventors and discoverers. I like to read their biographies. Why, how and when did I become interested in that? I always go back to Jonas Salk who passed away in 1995. Salk is a medical researcher who discovered the polio vaccine after doctors and pharmacists failed. This is not the important detail for my reader as the real moment of eternal amaze is his absolute rejection to own the patent for it!

Why? So it stays free forever and available for use without any conditions or restrictions!

I am also amazed by Abbas ibn Firnas’ (died in 887) interest in music, although people know him for something else. I say that his mathematical abilities – the relation between music, physics and math is no secret – were the key to the discoveries made by the great Amazigh ibn Firnas.

With every book I finish reading, I feel more convinced of the greatness and immortality of French educator Louis Braille who lost his eyesight when he was three years old. Losing his eyesight did not prevent him from reaching the libraries’ shelves, not just during his time as he also developed a way which can be used to understand all languages thus giving the blind the right to share knowledge with others.

“Braille was born on January 4, 1809 and he lost his eyesight when he was three years old. At the age of ten, he joined the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris. Before joining school, his father had taught him how to skillfully use his hands. Louis was intelligent so he became an excellent student and musician. After graduating, he became a teacher in the institute and took care of the blind. Braille learnt the military cryptography which was invented by a French officer to send military instructions to the French army during their war with the Germans. The officer’s system consisted of 12 dots but Braille managed to amend this and use six dots instead of 12 thus making it easier for the blind to learn the system.” I say – and I have every right to – as a man fond of braille that Louis is a great immortal man in all eras, regardless of who approves of this and who rejects it!

I like to go back to mad moments which made Mahatma Gandhi (died in 1948), Mother Teresa (died in 1997) and Nelson Mandela (died in 2013) decide to pack their bags and advance towards a dangerous idea they’ve believed in – whether it’s walking peacefully on foot, like Gandhi did, or stay for three decades in a prison cell or give up the world’s temptations and remain beside those suffering from leprosy like Mother Teresa did!

Personally speaking, I am impressed by inventors and discoverers. I like to read their biographies. Why, how and when did I become interested in that?

Turki Aldakhil

As much as I am fond of this information which gives me a special relationship with the great figures I admire, I stand in awe before the vision of founders, the kings who are capable of dreaming. The King Fahd Causeway which links the Saudi kingdom with Bahrain is evidence of the capability of the insight to overcome geography and redraw imagination so it becomes a reality that reflects the greatness of an idea when it shakes hands with a full-sighted visionary.

Before the bridge, there was the expansion of the two holy mosques which Arab Muslim kings, particularly the kings of Saudi Arabia, my country which I am proud of its achievements, specialized in. Before all of this, there were the Pharaohs’ achievements as they have, before the invention of any contracting companies, managed to build what no man in these days can compete with regardless of all the capabilities he has. How true are these words:

“If kings want their glory remembered after they have gone, they use the language of construction,
Have you not seen how the two pyramids live on despite all time?”

No matter how further I go on with my list, there’s one woman who repeatedly forces me to go back to her biography. It’s that woman who told the man who tried to discourage her efforts to provide water for pilgrims and those performing umrah: “Work even if every stroke of a pickax cost a dinar.” It’s that woman whom when workers gathered at her palace, which overlooks the Tigris River, and put out their notebooks to calculate what they had spent and report where the money they received from the state treasury went, she took the notebooks, dumped them in the river and said: “We’ve left the account for the day of reckoning. He who still has some money left, it’s his, and he whom we owe money, we will give it to him.”

We’re racing to name this woman who is the great immortal Zubaidah bint Ja’far, whom Ain Zubaidah is named after her. Yes, my dear reader, she herself and her “Ain” are what simplify the complication I stated in the beginning, between pursuing immorality and deserving it.

This article is also available in Arabic.



Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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