A Case of a Space

March 23rd, 2014

We’ve spoken about the mosque extensively in one or two lectures, through which we discussed its structural and architectural evolution that varied with time and place. Hence, I thought it was necessary to post a blog entry about experiencing the space and not just viewing it as a mosque. I have visited and viewed several mosques in several different countries, from the U.S., India, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and London. Some countries preserved a specific form and style, others have been inspired by more dominant Islamic cultural forms, while the rest had varied architecturally from one mosque to another. Although it is of significance to speak about this aspect, it is nevertheless important to shed light on the evolution of this space as a platform for social engagement, public expression, and in some occasions of political reform. Mosques throughout history have been open spaces where issues such as, yet not restricted to, exchanging trades, breaking class identifications, holding campaigns against an unjust ruler, and introducing marginalized voices into society.

In the following ink-drawing, I intended to exemplify experiencing the fusion between the sound and the structure of mosques in some Arab countries that I have visited. During the five prayers of the day, one will hear an echo of all the different voices stemming from the mosques in a neighborhood and in the surrounding areas; an experience so profound that I wonder how some people are advocating for unifying them into a single voice. Although these mosques speak the same language and recite verses from a single book, one should not forget that each mosque represents an ideology, an understanding, and a leading message that it advocates. Thinking of it, I thought the differences in minarets’ structure, length, and shape can resemble this multitude of voices, hence, my choice to do this:

Minarets are symbols of our similarities and differences – Watercolor and Ink on paper

Mosques can speak volumes about a culture, or at least about the community of attendees that are regular visitors to a mosque in their neighborhood. For example, some of the things one can take from simple observations would be how organized the people are by simply looking at the shoes and how assorted they are on the floor or on the shelves, by seeing whether or not they are of known fashion brands, by looking at the amount of water wasted during abolition, by the social vibes that fill the hall, and by seeing where women are located. Moreover and most importantly, by the Friday prayer khutba (speech) contents. In this entry, after having briefly portrayed the voices through the minarets, I will talk about experiencing this space at Harvard, which touches on the mosque being a space for cultural exchange, empowerment, and a way to understand a community of Muslims.

The following post and photo may not be an art piece, but it is certainly a catalyst for a cultural studies approach happening not so far away from the classroom.

  • “Today was the first time I ever actively contribute to a Juma’a (Friday) Prayer, an experience in the Islamic tradition that was gradually taken away from female Muslims, both in attendance and in voice. My friend, the khateeb/imam (Preacher/Prayer Leader), agreed to voice out my ideas and thoughts that I had written down for him. His voice merged with my ideas on the issue of “going beyond tolerance through a sincere engagement with the word “لتعارفوا” from the verb form “لتفاعلوا” “to know one another,” which is based on an active two-sided participation, to hybridise with the “other” rather than to simply “tolerate the other.”

A Case of a Space – Panoramic Photo

The Common Light

March 20th, 2014

This poem is a manifestation of the possibility of a common light, which could be attained when truth is perceived and understood with a small “t” and not a capital one “T”. In describing the truth, I intend to describe islam, and in that, I am pointing to islam with a small i and not a capital one. This understanding eliminates a superior ownership to truth and allows for a wider platform where it can be relative and subjective and still be worthwhile and true. In the light of that, we can see how throughout our course we have engaged in several moments with islam as an inclusive way of life rather than a dominating inclusive religion. I believe this can be attained particularly by removing the materialistic incentives that have been highly associated with Islam and other religions, such as the concept of heaven and hell, a shrine, the 72 virgins, the rivers of wine…etc. And as it is mentioned in narrations: “One day Rabia was seen running with fire in one hand and water in the other. They asked her why she was doing this and where she was going. She replied, “I am running to light a fire in Heaven and to pour water on the flames of Hell, so that both veils to the Face disappear forever.”

An inclusive islam is an experience that can be found within and not outside of oneself, for it is a human experience and we are all humans, daughters and sons of time, living in the moment, and forming our own interpretations and narratives, his story, her story, and mine.

This poem can be understood as an extension to the cultural studies approach, which emphasizes Donna Haraway’s Situated Knowledges, a concept I also argue for in a sense that our experiences should be credited and found truthful even when they don’t comply with the majority. In an attempt to symbolize this, I begin by stating that the human heart, which encompass the experiences, stories, and understandings are larger than the earths and skies. However, in my conclusion, I signal the human call, that is found in a light, and this light is mutual, and to those who walk in the darkness of the tunnel, it could seem impossible, but to those who look inwards in that darkness, it will shine bright.

—–

If the earths and skies did not fit God

The human heart has always had

In every breath, I am a “daughter of time”

Of God’s glory

And of the human story

Of his story, her story, and mine

—–

In life

A quest for love

Don’t you worry

A language delivered to you in the womb

Not at all tough

One, which requires no words

A state of mind, an open heart

A blossom in the hand

—–

Let there be no halal or haram

Neither hell nor heavens

Look inside, for these elements are within

Not outside of you

In every depth

Through every human

You’ll find a clue

—–

Only when we burn heaven and turn off the fire in hell

Will we be able to do good deeds without awaited benefits

For what is better than to love for the loved

To give, for the needy

To rescue, for the drowned

And to be a messenger of God on the ground

To let go of the virgins

To dry your body from the pools of wine

To believe in God

Without a spell, a verse, or a shrine

—–

Nothing and all, a human call

Let the body stir along a single drumming pattern

With the lights of this temple

The candles in your church

And the lanterns in my mosque

A source of light

The end of the tunnel lies out of sight

So look inwards and it will shine bright