week three – the adorned qur’an

May 8th, 2014 by lydiachen

adorned quran

This is sunna. The Prophet (may God bless him and greet him!) said, “Adorn the Qur’an with your voices” (Al Ghazali 53).

This week we spent a lot of time discussing the inimitability of the Qur’an. However, humans are far less capable of a divine and unchanging nature, and the interaction of human beings with the Qur’an presents an interesting point of friction.

The Qur’an, as a manifestation of the heavenly archetype, is believed to be perfect in its form. As we saw in class, the sounds, shapes, and script of the text are all considered to be sacred. Al Ghazali’s rules for the recitation of the Qur’an are the inspiration for this week’s collage. Although the text itself is unchanging and eternal, each recitation, reading, and writing of the Qur’an has a life of its own. Humans — their voices, their tears, and their hearts — are the adornments on a perfect text, giving each manifestation of the eternal words a unique flavor.

I’ve included some of the major adornments Ghazali suggests. The first letter is a red string. As humans tend to forget, they need a constant string around their finger as a reminder. The emphasis on memorization of the Qur’an is a testament to the importance of knowing, in the heart, the Word of God. The second letter is formed from the sun and the moon as a reference to the passage of time and the experience of the sacred text over time. The third letter testifies to the importance of sound in Islam, whether in spoken word or music. The fourth letter looks, in shape, similar to a dividing wall and I used this to represent the division of the Qur’an in to sura and ayat. Finally, the last letter is made of water and tears, acknowledging the experience of weeping while reading the Qur’an. Each of these are different ways to interact with the Qur’an, and they add a uniquely human element to the presence of the divine.

This project suggests that rather than being a challenge to the Qur’an, the nature of human beings — whether that is forgetful, volatile, or perfectly mundane — is an embellishment on the sacred text, ensuring its continued relevance.

Medium: Oil Pastel

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