BBC Four: Lost Cities of the Ancients


‘Rare’ would be the most suited word to describe contents of television programmes these days. ‘Rare’ that is, in terms of high quality programmes, which are heaped in well researched knowledge and throughly constructed piece of documentary. Television, over the centuries has seen a dramatic decline. Decline not in the sense of popularity but in high quality programmes being made. As ‘time’ itself goes by on the wings of a butterfly on an evening of one late summers’ day. People are more inclined to find watching ‘dog-fight relationships’ dramas more fascinating than watching a quality documentary. The state of the minds of people can easily be realised by the type of programmes they prefer to watch. You’d see, the programmes that are actually worthwhile watching are less favoured among the general masses. Dramas/Soaps/Reality TV shows/Sitcoms which involve finding out who slept with who, or who had an affair with who, will most probably come on the top of the list of most favoured TV programmes watched by people.

I know you probably already knew this, but it does not however remove the fact how we, as time progresses, are more inclined to watch programmes which makes us become more simple-minded than actually help us develop as civilised people. Both on an intellectual and emotional/physiological levels. I remember hearing one of the shuykhs’ say ‘when the final hour draws nearer, you will see the people of the cities and towns become more barbaric than those of the outlying lands, i.e the bedouins. As traditionally, it is seen the people of the cities are civilised and the bedouins as being ruthless, savages’. This is fast becoming a reality. Cities and towns which were traditionally seen as civilised and had a more intellectual growth than the rural parts of a country are now slowly changing, and the latter is coming to the forefront. Testament to the fact that most people commute ‘in’ to cities to work and earn a living, these days.
Traditionally, Television sets in the home were seen as both means to relax and learn. However, now it is increasingly turning out that people only use it to relax. The alarming thing is, this seems to have no boundaries. All the television programming these days are created only for this factor – To enable people to relax and loosen up. The subtleties here are dangerous and terrible! Once a person is continually loosened in his thinking, actions and speech. He is less able to stay alert and vigilant. What this essentially means is, people are more perceptible/open-to-accept anything. Since a person’s guard is lowered and no defense systems are in place to stop harmful information from coming in. One of the signs of our times is, people are now always in this ‘relaxed and loosened’ state of mind. The result is in front of our eyes today. The growth of useless and dull reality Tv shows and dramas. Where the capabilities to fully engage your brain with what you are watching is nominal! ‘Simply lay back and take it all in’, is the new drug of the 21st century. No wonder the state of extra-marital relationships/homosexuality and other disgusting and inhumane vices are no the rise.

On a more brighter note, there is still light at the end of the tunnel, to use an overly used phrase. Although BBC has its many downsides and sometimes racist sides to it aswell. It however, is i believe to be one of the last surviving television channels to broadcast those rare, quality, interesting and well thought-out programmes. Which invites the audiences to use some of their thinking faculties inorder to fully grasp and understand it’s documentary programmes. Not, simply lay back and let the TV feed you with information and mould you into a intellectually dead zombie.

One such programme which i find highly captivating and interesting to watch is BBC’s Lost Cities of the Ancients programme. Not only because it is a programme steeped in historical findings and archeology, but because there is a tremoundas amount of islamic lessons one can learn from it. Essentially, as the programme title suggests, it is about lost civilisations which once stood high and tall in the earth. Which have now crumbled to the dusts of the earth and have been completely forgotten with time. A documentary series which unearths lost civilisations and reveals the wonder of some of the world’s greatest lost cities. Many of us already know of the famous civilisations which came and went, but this series covers civilisations which are less known and how they flourished and then disappeared from the face of the earth.
From an islamic point of view the reasons i find it interesting to watch is dually for theses reasons.
Firstly, Allah says in the Quran time and again in numerous places. ‘We have destroyed so many civilisation before you… So, that you may learn from their mistakes’. (paraphrased and not exactly the wordings) Watching these sorts of programmes brings home these messages in the Quran, in new and more dramatic dimension. You begin to appreciate the verses of the Quran even more and realise how small and futile we are in front of Allah’s grandeur and power. The perished nations’.

Secondly, the other reason is, i find it amazing to see how people who came hundreds of thousands of years ago were the same people as now. How each civilisation came thinking ‘we are the greatest and the most powerful empire on earth’. Yet, only to be dissolved into thin air several years later. The same game which was played thousands of years ago is still being played today. Where we have nations vying with each other trying to take the claim to ‘we are the most powerful and greatest nation on earth’. This to me is the world’s oldest and longest sport which is still being played today! Something which i find useful in linking it with understanding the futile nature of life on earth. Programmes such as this serves one to appreciate the teaching of the prophets and the awliyah in which we can learn lessons from those who came before us. As they (the prophets and the awliyah) left the earth informing and reminding us about those who went before us. To take heed to what occurred to them when they chose to rebel against the laws of Allah, and how they met their fate.

To conclude, this is what i would call a ‘rare quality programme’ which are hard to find on TV these days. I happen to come across ‘Lost Cities of the Ancients’ when flicking through TV channels and stumbled upon it, to be frank. I would recommend you watch this, should you find the time to do so from your busy lifestyles, which i am sure is full of healthy and beneficial activities. ;-)

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