Unlettered

31 03 2009

siyer-i_nebi_5

The Prophet is not called ‘unlettered’ because he was unable to write. He was called that because his ‘letters’, his knowledge and wisdom were innate, not acquired. What can partial intellect have that universal intellect has not? The partial intellect is not capable of inventing anything it has not seen before. Recall the story of the raven: when Cain killed Abel and stood not knowing what to do with the body. One raven killed another, dug out the earth, buried the dead raven and scratched the earth over the body. From this Cain learned how to dig a grave and bury a body. All trades are like this. The possessor of partial intellect requires instruction while those who have united the partial with the universal intellect and become one are prophets and saints.

-Mevlana Jalalu’ddin Rumi


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4 responses

4 04 2009
Leyla Jagiella

@Adam, don´t ask me why some Muslims don´t know this kind of art. I know it. And I met plenty of other Muslims who did, Sunni, Shii and others.

It´s just a lack of both education and passion, I assume.
Just as there are plenty of Catholics in this world who have never ever heard about the Sistine Chapel.

It is, however, true that Muslim paintings have their very specific space, and that is usually never found in the mosques (although there have been some very few exceptions to this).
Mosques have always been kept free of images to make their visitors focus on God´s transcendence and unity.

Usually miniatures like these are found in books, as illustrations and illuminations.
Especially when the books are from the golden ages of the Ottoman empire, Central Asia, Persia or Moghul India.

Orhan Pamuk has written a wonderful and very intellectual murder mystery novell that has an Ottoman miniaturist and illuminator as its central protagonist.
Should you have some interest in Muslim miniature painting and learning about the milieu of Muslim artists in the 16th century you could consider reading it. It´s name is “My Name Is Red”.

Hmmm, I know several painted versions of Muhammad`s Mi`raj. But I have to admit that I do not know the name of any famous Muslim miniaturist.
These people were quite often working anonymously anyhow.

By the way, there was and is a debate amongst Muslim scholars regarding the Mi´raj having been a divinely inspired dream, a vision or an actual physical event (similar to debates about the resurrection). So, be a bit carefuly about calling it a dream.

You could classify Wahhabism as a subset of Salafism, yes. But Salafism is a more encompassing term. A Salafi is someone who solely bases his utopia on an imagined ideal age of the salaf, the pious forefathers in early Islam, and claims that he has discarded all sinful innovations that came after that age (despite constantly using printed books, the internet and cars … )

Thank you very much for appreciating the words on my blog.
I have to say that these words were inspired a lot by Arturo`s writngs which I have been reading for quite some time.
I owe a lot to him.
And, yeah, people sing that song to me all the time …*sigh*.

2 04 2009
Adam

“But things like that were done in the Islamic World for ages and I also have to admit that my own estrangement with practices like these has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up in a modern world that became unable to perceive the cosmos as enchanted and as directly manifesting divine order and NOT because I may be, as I try to convince myself, closer to the the original intentions of the Quran.”
This qoute from your blog Leyla (do you know Eric Clapton? or George Harrison?)
is the best explanation of the Arturo Vazquez point of view as I perceive it.

When you say Salafi–is that Saudi Arabian “cleric” sometimes referred to00 as Wahabbi–and yes they fund a lof of Muslim stuff in the US and around the world.

What is the name or artist of the famous painting of Muhammad’s dream of going to Jerusalem that is on many book covers?
If it is not heretical nor heterodox than how come so few Muslims seem to know about art (in a figures and faces sense)?
I am familiar with geometric designs and calligraphy (my favorite is the Mosque in Isfahan although the Armenians have quite a beautiful Christian Cathedral there also) and also the Al-Ambra in Spain but not paintings nor certainly sculpture–and painting with figures, faces etc.

31 03 2009
Leyla Jagiella

It´s not specifically Shia … paintings of Muhammad were quite common in some Muslim centuries, amongst adherents of all sects (but never in the sense of an icon).
In fact, some of the earliest miniatures even show the face of Prophet Muhammad.
Paintings like these were not universally considered heretic or heterodox during their time, not even in orthodox Sunni circles.

They are, however, considered heretic these days by many fragments of the Sunni/Salafi establishment; that´s true.

Your friends are misinformed. That´s not totally their own fault, though. In this century the educational structures in many Muslim communities created quite strict bans on any serious research regarding topics regarded as “controversial” in the current Sunni/Salafi climate.
Your friends probably had no chance at all to know about the existence of these important pieces of Classical Islamic art.

31 03 2009
Matt

This piece of art as well as the famous painting of Mohammad’s ascent to Heaven from Jerusalem both have images (without faces for Mohammad). However, I thought Islam (or at least most of Islam and Sunni Islam in particular) was iconoclastic.

In fact some of my Muslim friends are not familiar with the artistic piece above nor the Ascending to Heaven from Jerusalem by Mohammad on that peculiar animal. They told me that they are Shia and not Sunni or truly Islamic.

So is this art heretical or heterdox or is there art that is not sacred? that has sacred themes?

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