Shades of Light

 

“Know first that never did that sacred body

Cast shadow on earth, not e’en at noonday;

From head to foot his frame was light in essence,

And sure it is that light has not a shadow.

Above that noble head there hung unfailing,

A cloudy fragment sent from heav’n to shield him;

Its shadow cooled the burning heats of summer,

And where he moved the cloud to him was faithful.”

– The Mevlidi Sherif

 

This excerpt from the Mevlidi Sherif produces a powerful image that I wanted to depict in a drawing. The idea that the Nur Muhammad could physically manifest itself in the literal lack of a shadow stood out to me, as did the conflicting connotations of shade in this passage. While the light of Muhammad, a sacred and divine phenomenon, is seen as banishing shadows, God’s love for the prophet is simultaneously expressed through shade as a protection from the light of the sun. This positive connotation for shade is also seen in phrases like “in the shade of Allah,” which refer to having God’s blessing supporting your actions.

In line with the central issue of shade and shadows in this passage, I made shadows prevalent in the picture. The drawing is meant to take place in the desert at sunset, when the sun casts long shadows over all things. The figure is meant to be Muhammad while on one of his trips as a merchant, and the green tent is supposed to support this since green is the color of the Family of the Prophet. The issues in some cultures with the figural representation of the Prophet, along with the fact that the Nur Muhammad is depicted in this passage very literally as light, compelled me to leave the details and color out of Muhammad himself. I used his outline to show his general figure, but kept him white and empty to show that he is special; he is made up of pure light. The single cloud hanging in the sky provides shade from the harsh sun in the area where Muhammad stands, but since he is made of light, shade never actually covers his figure and he never casts a shadow.

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