An Iranian rival for the Guinness Book of World Records
By Kourosh Ziabari
The Guinness Book of World Records is being challenged with the efforts of a determined Iranian journalist. A new rival is slated to take the place of Guinness World Records in the near future. Sayyed Mortaza Mirseradji, Iranian researcher, journalist and essayist has registered a plan in the Islamic Republic of Iran Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to publish a book containing cultural, spiritual and moral records called "Al-Khayrat."
According to Mirseradji, Al-Khayrat which means "good and decent deeds" in Arabic will be an all-encompassing enterprise including encyclopedic books, movies and cultural organizations which are aimed at spreading cultural and moral records in the world. Some examples of cultural and moral records include the highest number of books written by an author, the longest duration of professorship in the university, the oldest library servant etc.
Mirseradji has written several books about Imam Mahdi, the religious leader whom the Shiite Muslims believe that will appear on the Earth one day alongside Jesus the Christ and spread justice, peace and tranquility all around the world.
He believes that in order to have their names registered in the Guinness Book of World Records, people do foolish and useless actions and Guinness motivates them to even endanger their life for setting unbreakable records; however, Al-Khayrat will include records which are aimed at serving the humankind and are beneficial for the people from all religions, ethnic groups and genders.
What follows is the complete text of my interview Sayyed Mortaza Mirseradji, Iranian religious and scientific journalist and the founder of Al-Khayrat cultural and moral records.
Kourosh Ziabari: What made you think of publishing a book for registering moral records? What's your main objection to the Guinness Book of World Records? After all, it is an internationally acclaimed source of records.
Sayyed Mortaza Mirseradji: I had read the news related to the Guinness World Records and also bought three copies of the book a few years ago and read them. I found many interesting and educative points in it; however, some of the records made me think more deeply. When I realized that someone had not cut his fingernails for many years and this was set as a record in the Guinness Book of World Records, I felt extremely sorry because such a practice is nonsensical and meaningless from every aspect, preventing one from many important affairs and showing the thoughtlessness and stupidity of that person to everyone. On that time, I asked myself that what will the results of such actions and registering them be for the crisis-hit humanity? Unquestionably, registering such records is worse than doing the work itself. I strongly believe that supporting and promoting an unbecoming action is far worse than that action as our religious leaders have made this subtle remark that the doer of a suitable action is many times better and more favorable than the action itself while the doer of an inappropriate and obscene action is worse than the very action.
Therefore, it came to my mind that propose the idea of a new idea about the world records to the international community and am motivated and feel that it's very useful to register positive and helpful records in an international effort for promoting and enshrining the decent deeds and bring into existence a feeling of healthy and principled competition.
In principle, what inspired me to propose and implement the project of Al-Khayrat Records were two identical verses in the Holy Quran where the Almighty God says that "so race to all that is good." In addition, many verses and religious anecdotes prevent the believers from whatever is useless, worthless and irrational. For this purpose and in order to realize my idea, I registered my plan in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance of Islamic Republic of Iran and also sent letters to the officials at UNESCO to register this plan and implement it internationally.
My main objection to the Guinness World Records is the registration of records which are in contrary to religion, logic and moral standards. All the divine religions have been emerged with the order of the Almighty God to help the humankind find positive approaches and suitable ways for achieving progress and perfection and consider them as his ultimate goal so as to realize his sublime objectives. In your view, and from the perspective of every rational and open-minded person, is it useful if one sleeps in a glass coffin and a few thousands cockroaches parade on his body? Is it a good deed if someone creeps 100 meters on the ground and register a record of speedy creeping? The prophets have been selected for prophethood to help the humankind get out of ignorance and confusion and make him understand that they should derive benefit from conscience in all aspects of his life. Isn't it a collapse and downfall in contrary to the intellect if we move on the ground like animals? Isn't it that we all claim that we're living in the 21st century? Should the incarnations of civilizations be confined to constructing skyscrapers, paying attention to nanotechnology, space stations, biotechnology and the like? Aren't we bound to develop and improve ethics alongside the other manifestations of civilizations according to our divine and humane responsibility?
KZ: Please explain for us the features of your plan. Is the collection of moral records slated to be published in the format of a book or do you have other plans for it? What records are supposed to be registered in this book? Would you please give us some examples of these records?
SMM: At the outset, I started from a simple blog. Great efforts start from little steps. In my long-run perspective, I have foreseen a multilingual website, the publication of a book, producing films and establishing a cultural institute with the participation of professional experts and scholars. The collection of Al-Khayrat cultural and moral records can encompass a variety of records in different fields such as charitable donations, compilation of books, inventions and discoveries, humanitarian efforts and the like. For example, Dr. Sheikholeslami is the title-holder of blood donation in the world as he has donated his blood 190 times. Or the late Ayatollah Shirazi who was a source of emulation (a religious authority) with a heavy workload and many children which the Almighty God had bestowed upon him had written more than 1200 books one of which was a 150-volume book. There are thousands of similar instances and I wish the Almighty God helps me to register these records and review and classify them with the assistance of professional and dexterous experts.
KZ: Don't you believe that the Guinness Book of World Records has the potentiality to register cultural and moral records?
SMM: It does have to some extent, and has been successful in some cases. However, when the people of the world are motivated to radical attraction-seeking which is a despicable human characteristic, there will emerge a contradiction between this and the registration of moral and useful actions. It is said that in the ancient times, there was a king who destroyed the grape fields which were used to produce wine while at the same time producing wine in his own palace.
It is impossible for us to be thirsty and quenched at the same time. Guinness makes profit and gains fame by registering unwise performances and a number of imprudent people even endanger their own lives for becoming famous and well-off. It's impossible to bring together moral and immoral records because it will be detrimental to morality and spirituality and makes it difficult to figure out what is good and what is bad. One important point which I want to raise here is that I'm not an enemy of Guinness World Records. If it was not important to me and was not an international effort, perhaps it would never dawn on me to think of such an enterprise. If the Guinness opens a section for registering the moral records of the world one day, I'll find my objective realized which is to have a positive influence on people and sociocultural institutions.
However, as I noted earlier, mixing cultural records and foolish records is obnoxious to spirituality. Guinness has performed well in the scientific field such as recording the intuitive or exceptional characteristics of animals or the physiological records of people or records in geology etc, because such information are pretty useful and valuable for enthusiastic people, researchers and scientists. Nonetheless, I think that mixing spiritual and material records with each other is not a right decision and it's better to register spiritual and moral records in the framework of Al-Khayrat records.
KZ: What's your schedule for carrying out the Al-Khayrat project? To put it hpw more succinctly, when will the first manifestation of your project, whether in the form of a book, film or multimedia CD be released? Do you think that this project can receive widespread international attention?
SMM: There's no doubt that spirituality has always had the lower hand and the diabolical forces have been perpetually unrivaled. Just imagine that how many books were written and how many movies were produced about the useless personalities and evildoers of the world. Has the international community praised and paid tribute to the spiritual symbols and personalities in the same way? Imam Ali (PBUH) has a golden statement which says: "don't be afraid of your fewness in the path of guidance." I think that the Al-Khayrat spiritual – cultural records are actually leading the mankind toward decency and what is good. In the first days, you find yourself lonely; however, as long as you are connected with the Almighty God, you should not be concerned. Moreover, a true believer should always pay attention to conferring the affairs to the Almighty God and not be neglectful of divine assistance and patronage. I think that one should not be always concerned with the results and someone who is always looking for the results is not a true lover, spiritualist and servant. We should work like a soldier and attend to our service.
If we, the human beings, come to the conclusion that a certain job is decent and righteous, we should do it as correctly and powerfully as possible and leave the results to the Creator. Having said this, I rely on God in this enterprise and leave the results to Him. The establishment or non-establishment, popularity or unpopularity of an enterprise such as the Al-Khayrat records in the national and international level is dependent upon different conditions and circumstances. For example, in the case of driving, if you are a good driver, it does not guarantee that you'll never have a car crash because the other side of the story which is the driver opposing to you is also effective in your destiny. I want to say that your effort alone does not make everything; rather your readers and audiences should also take steps and be receptive to your idea and thought. We should add the Providence to this statement. At any rate, I'm optimistic that these records will be well-received internationally and I can succeed in contributing to a change in the approaches of the humankind and encouraging them to decency and spreading what is righteous.
KZ: In order to operate your plan, you certainly need remarkable financial resources. Publishing a glorious book with an attractive appearance and in wide circulation needs a powerful sponsor. Have you made any decision in this regard?
SMM: Yes, certainly we need remarkable financial assistance. We should pay the price for an impressive and effective enterprise. We live in a world which is fueled by money. I hope that with popular donations, governmental and international sponsorship, we may succeed in operating this important plan.
KZ: Does this book simply include Iranian spiritual records or do you want to develop it internationally? If so, then do you have any plans for internationalizing the Al-Khayrat collection of records such as translating it into other live languages and publishing it in the foreign countries?
SMM: The man who devised the crosswords for the first time hadn't ever thought of his plan and idea becoming international and turning into a permanent section in all of the newspapers and magazines. As I've noted in my letter to UNESCO, this plan should be first carried out in each and every country so that the people can get acquainted with the objective and mission of this collection of records and those whose name must be registered in Al-Khayrat don't be discriminated against or don't get neglected. Then registering the records should be carried out. I hope that God willing, the people interested in spirituality in every corner of the world support this plan and contribute to the translation, propagation and publication of books and establishment of centers related to this plan. I think that I've only sowed the seed of this sapling and until the time when this sapling turn into a robust and sturdy tree, it's expected that different experts and devoted investors and international cultural and social organizations support it financially and morally. I think that we'd better start from a multilingual website so that the world may know it more and more.
KZ: In your view, what will be the impact of such an innovation on the people's viewpoint regarding setting new records and perpetuating their name? If your project goes on stream, will the people around the world try to do decent, charitable deeds to have their name eternalized instead of, for example, baking the longest kebab of the world?
SMM: A group of records involve the contemporary people, who have passed away, and another group implicates the deceased people, who passed away many times ago, and their records should be studied by the skillful experts and scholars. However, what's more important is that there are living people today and registering their spiritual and positive records is tantamount to eulogizing their eminent position and introducing their concealed and unknown personality to the public. For example, it was on the news that someone had constructed 110 schools in the Azerbaijan province of Iran and this spiritual record can be glorious and honorable for every Iranian citizen and every freeman in the world, because we figure out that great personalities and celestial stars are not that much far-fetched and inaccessible and in our demoralized world which is devoid of spirituality, people with sublime souls still live with us. I can cite another example for you. I go to the library of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament) of Iran for library researches and there's a prominent scholar and mentor in the manuscripts section named Abdolhossein Haeri who has been confined to bed and suffers from decrepitude. I always ask him specialized questions in various fields including the anthology of manuscripts and enjoy the enormous and vast knowledge of this noble man. However, I had never thought about the fact that this great man has been serving the seekers of knowledge for more than 6 decades in this library and this very section (the manuscripts section) even when he was the head of this section. I think that this is an unrivaled and valuable record which should be put in Al-Khayrat and narrates an unseen and unsaid perspective of the zeal and enthusiasm of this contemporary scientist. Doesn't knowing about such records appear to be more pleasant and blissful than finding a man wearing 245 T-shirts in two hours or the other man standing up on a Swiss ball for a few hours? Why don't we, in the position of a theoretician, writer or the manager of an international cultural organization encourage the people to do virtuous cultural and spiritual deeds to have their name registered in the Al-Khayrat collection of records? For example, a person or a group can set out to rescue the children of a certain region by giving them the infantile paralysis medicine and help them stay away from this refractory disease which may afflict them in the future and set an interesting moral record. What's wrong with such a record? Which one is better? Helping rescue children from a difficult illness or making the world's largest shoe which is the same size as an automobile? What will be the application of this useless shoe? Or what's the usage of a T-shirt in the size of a football pitch? Instead of such useless efforts, we can encourage the people to donate a certain amount of money and cover the orphan children with "life and investment insurance." Maybe someone can set a record in covering several orphan and impoverished children with life insurance. We propose these suggestions and the people of the world will welcome it, inshaAllah. Certainly there are thousands of novel ideas in this regard which may not strike my mind or yours, but will be set forth with the efforts and sponsorship of enthusiastic people and the supporters of Al-Khayrat records all around the world with the patronage of the Almighty God.
KZ: As my final question, what's your message to the non-Iranian readers of this interview who have become familiarized with your idea? What do you have to tell them?
SMM: The world is thirsty and crisis-stricken. Spiritualism has been replaced with materialism and the name of God has been consigned to oblivion. What doesn't have the one who has spirituality? And what does have the one who doesn't have spirituality, even if he is the most famous, wealthiest and most powerful person in the world?