Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Voices of Peace from Dubai to Odense - Dr. Pamela Chrabieh presents at Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies conference

AUD School of Arts and Sciences Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Dr. Pamela Chrabieh attended the 10th Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies ‘Formation of Middle Eastern Subjectivities, Cultural Heritage, Global Structures and Local Practices’ conference at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense from September 21-24, 2016.

The Nordic Society is an independent and non-profit association for researchers in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway) working on the Middle East and covering subjects in the humanities and social sciences, from antiquity to the present day. The associational conference takes place every third year in one of the four Nordic countries.

In September 2016, the Centre for Contemporary Middle East Studies at the University of Southern Denmark hosted the conference in Odense. “In the past decades, the exploration of the formation of modern subjectivities has developed into a core field of the humanities and social sciences. This strand of research is asking for social practices and codes; it investigates competing bodies of knowledge, social performances and emotions; interprets textual and visual forms of discourse; analyzes the interrelations of social practices with material artifacts and means of communication; observes individual forms of subjectivity as well as the interaction in social fields and classes.”[1]

Dr. Chrabieh presented a paper on the Gulf panel entitled “Voices of Peace through Arts in the UAE: Middle Eastern Studies’ students perceptions of Islam. She introduced the audience to the preliminary results of her ongoing qualitative research at the crossroads of Peace Education, Sciences of Religions and Art History on perceptions of Islam as it relates to Peace by 160 university students enrolled in Middle Eastern Studies courses at the American University in Dubai. The results of this research were compared to those of a previous academic inquiry Dr. Chrabieh conducted from 2007 to 2014 in three Lebanese universities with 3000 students.

According to Dr. Chrabieh, Art has an important role to play in the pursuit of peace, and is an amazing way to channel a sense of collective urgency such as through the Peace Art in Dubai project she implemented at the American University in Dubai. “As a result of various activities - art workshops and events, online exhibition, outdoor agoras -, students have been able to create individual and shared spaces and expressions through various media and art techniques that helped them debunk stereotypes of Islam, better understand each other’s beliefs and practices, and become active agents of peace.”

The Peace Art in Dubai project is an application of Dr. Chrabieh’s Peace Education approach which aims to cultivate the knowledge and practices of a culture of peace. So far, her Peace Art in Dubai bloghttp://peaceartdubai.blogspot.ae/ features more than 160 artworks. She adds, “Students’ positive feedbacks at the end of every semester encouraged me to pursue this project, as well as the recent changes to the federal government ministries in the United Arab Emirates, including the establishment of a Ministry of Tolerance with a clear message calling citizens and expatriates to be agents of peace and to help the government in its task, first internally, and second, in exporting the model outside of the Emirati boundaries. Hopefully these new measures will contribute to call attention to the importance of peace education initiatives already taking place and open the door to the establishment and officialization of peace education programs in schools and universities.



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.

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]
• Dr Pamela class material (Blackboard)
• http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/default.aspx?pageid=438&n=the-search-forunity-
• 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