About this Blog

This online exhibition features my American University in Dubai "Islamic Art and Architecture" students' artworks expressing their visions of the Peace-Islam relation.

Although scientific understanding of creativity is far from complete, many scholars agree on the fact that Art has a broader function in defining us and modifying our views of ourselves and our societies. Producing peace art or art for peace is one of the many ways to be building convivial identities and communities. Indeed, “it isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it” (E.R.).

According to Candace Stout (1999), “the arts, with their inextricable ties to imagination, have the capacity to provide an unlimited source of possibilities for connecting self to other and for creating a disposition for sympathetic awareness.” Such awareness promotes peer-to-peer learning, a spirit of cooperation, social innovation, and inspires hope in better social-political, inter-religious and inter-cultural dynamics.

The blog's goals are:
1) to provide a forum for American University in Dubai students and artists in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates in which the arts are used to express their perceptions of issues affecting their communities, and their shared human interests in peace.
2) to create a space in which individuals from different backgrounds can acknowledge difference and advocate creative, nonviolent conflict resolution by engaging with each other and their audiences.
3) this inter-cultural/inter-religious exchange of artistic ideas aims at fostering new aesthetic directions and endeavors, while renewing individual and collective commitments to peace.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Salah: A Journey of Spiritual Elevation

Rana Abd El Moti Mohamed


Description of Installation:
Many of us spend our lifetime in search of a path that will lead us to inner peace, a quest that is highly emphasized in the teachings of Islam. The struggle to attain ultimate peace lies in the complex nature of man, created of both physical and non physical qualities, as described in Islam one can only achieve true inner peace once they are able to fulfill both their forms. Allow me to invite you to experience, first hand an installation that inter-operates the experience of Prayer Salah (meaning to connect in Arabic) as described and symbolized in the Sunnah and Hadith of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Through the filming of nature, the core symbolic imagery described in the Hadith, the visuals have then been altered to reflect an alternate reality, to bring alive another layer of stunning predominant Islamic art form, which is the use of abstract and geometric art. I have chosen to alter the imagery to reflect this unique and intricate form of art that is recognised by Islamic artists to free the mind of the forms of the physical world, allowing one to contemplate on the metaphysical realities that are described in Islam, ultimately elevating one’s spiritual conscious. Please step on the mat, to embark on a journey of great peace and beauty. This is the spiritual journey of Salah.
Why prayer in Islam?
Prayer is a journey all on its own, from the moment the Adan prayer call is made, which under it all Muslim people are unified regardless of their age, gender, social class, or nationality. All are requested to answer to their Lord. To begin the prayer one must go through the process of both physical and spiritual cleansing, as they preform Prayer is a journey all on its own, from the moment the Adan prayer call is made. After one is cleaned the worshipers gather side by side, shoulder to shoulder, united, all facing the same direction, with the words Allah Akbar (God is Great), recited once more to begin the prayer, just as it started the Call dropping the titles of every man, and pulling them out of the physical world, to stand in between the Divine hands of their creator.
Peace in Prayer?
Nevertheless, peace in prayer does not only lie in the physical or observable qualities that can be comprehended by the human mind instead, it lies in what the mind cannot comprehend or witness, and that is secret journey that one embarks on, as they preform this act of worship. A secret journey that can only be revealed through the Sunnah and Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH). In the Hadith imagery and symbolism are used to describe this experience, using elements of nature which are of great purity and beauty, furthermore, these elements that according to the teachings of Islam await mankind in Paradise in its most extravagant forms. Depicting the act of prayer as a journey that one makes several times a day to Paradise, in their fully conscious state. As the description of prayer is strongly connected with that of nature, one should being to feel a greater sense of unity and harmony with the universe as a whole.
How does this Art Form represent the concept?
I had first intended to put together a short a film with the actual visual imagery that I had captured that was derived from the Hadith (using river, trees and mountains), but as I began putting the film together, I lacked any sense of elevation or spiritual awakening with in me, thinking to myself here I am representing a journey that is hard for the human mind to comprehend yet, I am using visuals that are fairly common to see and understand. I wanted to capture the eyes of the people, and elevate their spirits, freeing their mind of the physical world, and allowing them to create their own interpretations of the metaphysical reality that is still guarded by the core representations of Hadith. Struggling, I turned to our class material for answers, only to be reminded of the image of Kabaa and the pilgrims engaged in prayer. Only to grasp that through prayer amazingly patterns, shapes and symmetry are created, so why not incorporate this element into the film! Using the foundation of Geometric and Arabesque art that we have been introduced to in class, I have altered the imagery to represent the shapes that symbolize Islamic concepts, like the Octagon=Paradise, Circle=God, Square= connection between earth and heaven. To elaborate on the harmony and the infinite patterns the shapes create, representing the nature of Divine God. Despite how beautiful the descriptions of Prayer may be to the Muslim, the experience of standing in front of the the all Mighty is not intended to be easy and therefore, I wanted to translate the essence of fear, as we wander together in an alternate reality.

Hadith
Nature Element:
1. Flowing Water
In the hadith narrated of the authority of Abd Huraira the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) is reported to have said. while in the hadith narrated by Bakr (the words are like this) : He heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) as saying: just see, can anything of his filthiness remain (on the body of) any one of you if there were a river at his door in which he washed himself five times daily? They, said: Nothing of his filthiness will remain (on his body). He said: That is like the five prayers by which Allah obliterates sins. or Jabir b. 'Abdullah reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: The similitude of five prayers is like an overflowing river passing by the gate of one of you in which he washes five times daily Hasan said: No filthiness can remain on him.
2. The Tree
Also used as a reference to prayer. I visited the Prophet during his ailments and he was suffering from a high fever. I said, "You have a high fever. Is it because you will have a double reward for it?" He said, "Yes, for no Muslim is afflicted with any harm but that Allah will remove his sins as the leaves of a tree fall down.”
3. The Mountains
Described symbolically with the form of a mountain in other versions of the Hadith “When the worshiper stands up in prayer, all his sins are brought and placed upon his head and shoulders, so whenever he bows and prostrates, they fall from him." [Bahyaqi, Tabaraani, authenticated by Al-AlBaanee]
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References
• Dr Pamela class material (Blackboard)
• http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/default.aspx?pageid=438&n=the-search-forunity-
8211-geometric-patterns-in-islam-2010-07-16
• http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095263513000216
• http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/teachers-resource-maths-and-islamic-art-anddesign/
• http://www.alartemag.be/en/en-art/the-crucial-role-of-geometry-in-islamic-art/
• http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/art/art_1.shtml

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Agia Sophia

By Zeina Khawaja





This is two-selection piece of artwork made by me of a representation of a mosque, which is inspired by the Hagia Sophia Museum. The big main canvas is an A3 canvas and the smaller one is the size of an A4. The materials I used to compose this selection are Acrylic paints for the colors, acrylic pens for the outlines, and textiles for decoration.

After my first visit to Turkey, one of the most inspiring places I have visited over there was Hagia Sophia Museum, knowing that it was a church that turned into a mosque that is presently a museum inspired me and made me wonder how could one place like that, embrace two religions in a one lifetime. In my opinion, I interpret that as unity of multiple religions in one single place but at different timings. So having this project, the first figure I could think of is the Hagia Sophia Museum to represent peace among all religions.


Unity in Diversity


Zeena Abu Al Saad

 


            My name is Zeena Abu Al Saad and I am a Jordanian student studying journalism at the American University in Dubai. Despite being fully Jordanian, I have lived in Qatar for the full 20 years that I have been alive; I arrived in Dubai 3 years ago when I got accepted to AUD, and I am currently living here temporarily with my twin sister until we both graduate. Dubai being the great cosmopolitan city that it is, during the past three years it has not just introduced me to a great number of cultures different to mine, but it has also introduced to me a great number of opinions and perspectives on Islam much different to mine. As cliché as this may sound, my decision to become a journalist was initially greatly influenced by my need to defend my peaceful religion, Islam. The media to me is on of the most powerful creations of mankind, if not the most powerful; while I greatly believe that the media is super beneficial, I also believe that it is one of the strongest destructive forces on our planet earth.

            The title of the artwork that I have produced for my Islamic Art and Architecture course goes by the name Al Wihda Fi Al Tanawo’, which translates in English to The Unity in Diversity; despite being short, in my opinion, these two words capture the absolute essence of Islam and its Art.
             
            Why call it The Unity in Diversity? This project could not have come in a better time as we are currently in the midst of all the negative stereotyping against Islam and Muslims around the world. Through this artwork, I want us to come together to understand how imperative it is for Muslims to come back to the pluralistic vision of the Quran before anything. Islam-related issues in the media have changed significantly in the past 10 years, both in amount and quality. The occasions of September 11, 2001, pushed Islam into the worldwide media forefront: not just did coverage of Islam definitely increase, especially in news and entertainment media, however the way in which Islam is framed worldwide has also changed. The past couple of years and events have resulted in Islamic unfortunately being framed as a religion that is not accepting, not diverse, and not unifying. As a Muslim, I constantly feel the need to express the beauty of my religion and to help those who have been misguided, to see it for what it really is.

            Contrary to what is portrayed in the Media, Islam is actually a religion that shows that all individuals are totally equivalent in God's sight; Islam and the Quran are unmistakably accepting to diversity - in creation, society, and convictions inside of the human world. Disposing of the pre-Islamic tribal society instilling tight groupings in light of family and genealogy, the Quran portrays every single individual as a major aspect of one super unit, which is humankind. It addresses the totality of humankind as 'Bani Adam' (offspring of Adam). For instance the accompanying verse from the Quran supports the notion of diversity as a crucial component of the plan of creation. In verse 99 of Sura Younus, the Quran clarifies that on the off chance that it had been God's Will to not to give the freedom of choice to mankind, he could have made all humanity alike and all would then have Faith. Thus, the Quran endorses diversity and acceptance as a major aspect of the Divine Will. The Quran sees questions in the matter of religion as purposeless and urges its disciples to discover regular grounds of conviction through politeness, sympathy, and sincerity.

            There is a history of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, and individuals from different beliefs living respectively in congruity in a pluralistic culture under the Muslim rule; furthermore, it is important to take into consideration the remarkable ethnic and religious differences that existed in the early hundreds of years of Islam. This was obscure to different civilizations of those times. All Muslims from different origin used to live in flawless amicability with everyone else, as the Jews and Christians stayed faithful to their confidence and were completely free to satisfy their individual religious commitments. In fact, they wouldn't face any pressure regarding their faith or pressure to embrace Islam. The Prophet, for example, would take his partners and his hosts (of different religions) under his wings and would not permit anybody to embarrass them or to treat them cruelly. Furthermore, Jews and Christians embraced Arabic dialect and adequately added to the way of life of the Islamic culture.

            Back when Caliph Umar landed in Jerusalem after the success of the city by the Muslims in 638, the Christian Patriarch of Jerusalem gave him a voyage through the locales. As the timing for prayer approached, Umar requested a spot to pray. The Patriarch offered Umar the chance to pray where he stood in the Church of Holy Sepulcher. Umar turned down the offer saying where he, the main Muslim ruler in Jerusalem, would pray, his supporters would assemble a mosque and that he couldn't let that happen out of respect for the church and its worshippers. Therefore, he prayed outside on the street and today a mosque, called the Mosque of Umar, still stands opposite the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This demonstrates Umar's admiration and respect for Christians and their religion.

             I could go on for days about stories from early Islam that demonstrate its compassionate nature if given the opportunity. Islam is a religion that encourages all Muslims to draw in sympathy, obtain learning, and acclimatize wisdom no matter the origin or creed. In its initial hundreds of years the Muslim civilization was the vanguard of human advancement since it was not hesitant to recognize truth and to secure learning from whatever source - Muslim or non-Muslim, past or present (House of Wisdom in Baghdad is a great example). Ali, the fourth Muslim Caliph and a profoundly worshipped figure by all Muslims, said that one ought to assess a talk in view of what it says and not who says it.

            As for Islamic Art, I could also go on for days. Islamic Art is of great importance to me because I come from a family of artists who have instilled the soul of Islamic Art in my upbringing. When many of us think of Islamic Art, we think of The Dome of The Rock, The Taj Mahal, and maybe bowls or silk carpets, but these are just examples; what exactly is Islamic Art? Through this brief description of Islamic Art that I will be presenting, I will also further emphasize just how diverse and unifying our religion is, even in its art.

            Islamic Art is a concept put together by art historians in the nineteenth century to order and study the material initially delivered under the Islamic groups of people that rose up out of Arabia in the seventh century. Today Islamic Art depicts the majority of human expressions that were created in the grounds where Islam was the prevailing religion or the religion of the individuals who ruled. Unlike the terms Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist workmanship, which allude just to religious craft of these beliefs, Islamic Art is not utilized only to portray religious art and architecture, yet applies to all fine arts created in the Islamic World, both religious and secular.

            Therefore, Islamic Art alludes not just to works made by Muslim specialists, artisans, and designers or for Muslim supporters; It incorporates the works made by Muslim craftsmen for a supporter of any faith, including Christians, Jews, or Hindus, and the works made by Jews, Christians, and others, living in Islamic lands, for patrons, Muslim and so on.

            A standout amongst the most popular landmarks of Islamic Art is the Taj Mahal, situated in Agra, India. Hinduism is the prevailing religion in India; nevertheless, due to the fact that Muslim rulers, most broadly the Mughals, dominated extensive regions of current India for a considerable length of time, India has a boundless scope of Islamic art and architecture. Furthermore, another example of the diversity of Islamic Art is The Great Mosque of Xian, China. Initially developed in 742 C.E., the mosque's present structure dates to the fifteenth century C.E. Moreover, it takes after the arrangement and engineering of a contemporary Buddhist sanctuary.

            Islamic Art is not a monolithic style or development; it traverses 1,300 years of history and has mind boggling geographic assorted qualities—Islamic domains and administrations controlled regions from Spain to western China. In any case, few if any of these different nations or Muslim realms would have alluded to their craft as Islamic Art. An artisan in Damascus would have thought about his work as Syrian or Damascene—not as Islamic.

            While taking other courses in AUD such as Arts History, I have come to realize that in a few ways, Islamic Art is somewhat like the Italian Renaissance. Amid the Renaissance, there wasn’t a one unified Italy; it was a place of many independent city-states. Nobody would have thought about one's self as an Italian, or of the craftsmanship they delivered as Italian, rather they perceived themselves as a Roman, a Florentine, or a Venetian. Every city created its very own local and astounding style; In the meantime, there are sure hidden subjects or likenesses that bind together the craftsmanship and design of these urban areas and permit researchers to talk about an Italian Renaissance.


            The artwork I have produced is highly influenced by a painting called diversity that belongs to a contemporary Muslim artist Siddiqa Juma. According to her website, as her style has developed, she has become focused on Hajj, the journey that each Muslim attempts to perform in any event once in their lifetime. Juma has not yet made this voyage herself, thus her work conveys not the experience of journey or the procedure of performing the Hajj, however a longing to leave on that trip, with every one of the components on each canvas floating overwhelmingly towards the heavenly city. This longing has given her work another focus, moving her far from impersonation of exemplary Islamic art and towards a more individual style, one that conveys at the same time the closeness and the separation between Juma and her religion. One of her paintings, named diversity, which stood out to me the most, portrays the Kaaba surrounded by small blotches of many different colors, representing the diversity of Islam and its followers. I wanted to create something that, similar to Juma’s work of art, represents the diversity and unity of Islam, but in a different way. 

My artwork was created using acrylic paint on a simple white rectangular canvas. I began by first using a paintbrush to paint the entire canvas black, and then I proceeded to add handprints, using my own hands, in many different colors. The handprints on my canvas in different colors are there to symbolize the diversity of Islam as a religion, its acceptance to diversity, and the diversity of Islamic Art (Islamic Art is marked by handprints of people of all colors, religions, and cultures.) Furthermore, I also used this technique to emphasize the notion of unity in Islam; the different colored handprints, which are meant to represent a variety of humans, are united together on one canvas. The colors I chose to place on my canvas are symbolic in Islam; for example, I chose the color green because it is the dominant color in Islam and it represents the notion of paradise, I chose to include red because it symbolizes passion, white symbolizes purity and peace, and finally blue symbolizes the sky (where god and heaven meet). Following this, I outlined my handprints in colors different to those they are in just to create the illusion of contrast to add a wider range of colors to the canvas. Furthermore, I also added blotches of different colors of paint by gentling dabbing a small sponge on empty areas of the canvas. I chose to add calligraphy because it is an essential work of art in the Islamic World. The Qur'an, written in rich scripts, speaks to Allah's (or God's) divine word, which Muhammad got specifically from Allah amid his dreams. Furthermore, Quranic verses, executed in calligraphy, are found on a wide range of types of workmanship and design; Islamic calligraphy can be found on everything from fired dishes to the dividers of houses. Calligraphy's inescapability underscores the quality and importance that Islam places on dialect, particularly Arabic. I chose to write the word Salam in white; Islam is directly linked to the word “salam”, which translates to peace in English. By using the color white, I wanted to further emphasize the meaning of the word and its importance in our religion.

            In conclusion, through this artwork I feel the need to shed light on three of the most fundamental parts of Islam, which are peace, unity, and diversity. Islam is not about war and slaughter and scorn like what the vast majority thinks, due to images shaped by the media. Islam is not about murdering and lying and doing repulsive things "in the name of Allah." Islam is not about telling the world that non-Muslims shouldn't be alive. Our religion is about both internal and external peace, accepting diversity, and uniting the world and creating one Uma (community).