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Protected: Prologue

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Week 13: Chapter 13

Chapter 13Chapter 13 PDF

For my final project, I decided to take the book The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid and write an additional chapter, Chapter 13. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a thought provoking novel that highlights the inner struggles of a Pakistani-Muslim man living, loving, and losing in a post September 11 America. The novel ends with a cliff-hanger ending—Changez, the storyteller, notices the American reaching for something in his pocket with a metal glint. He wants to believe it is a business card holder, but we never really find out what it is.

There are two seemingly obvious things that could have happened afterwards. The optimistic thing to say is that the object was in fact a business card holder. However, due to earlier foreshadowing, I assume that most audiences think that the object was a weapon to hurt Changez. Several hints are given for this interpretation. Earlier in the book, Changez says that the American sits as if he has an armpit holster like security agents. There are also several foreshadowing quotes like this:

“It seems an obvious thing to say, but you should not imagine that we Pakistanis are all potential terrorists, just as we should not imagine that you Americans are all undercover assassins.”

To feed my curiosity, I decided to experiment a little bit with Hamid’s writing style to write an ending that fulfills both of these predications. The metal glint is in fact from a business card holder. The American, who I gave a name to, offers Changez this card. But the American is also carrying a gun, and is in fact an assassin sent to kill Changez.

I mimicked the writing style and even the appearance of the novel for my project. I begin with an interaction with the American, I then tell a story of older days, am then interrupted by the actions of the American, and then respond to the American. I visually formatted my chapter to look like pages from the book, paying careful attention to the way each chapter is designed and the page number where the book leaves off.

I decided to disregard the man who seemed to be following Changez and the American. But I decided to include another cliffhanger ending like Hamid. Unlike Hamid however, I wanted the ending to be more substance than gimmick. Though I don’t outright say that the American kills Changez, it can rightfully be interpreted. We now know a gun is involved.

I tried to make connections back to earlier parts in the novel. I included Jim, the cell phone, Underwood Samson, New York, and more. I gave the American a name because I knew I personally was waiting for one while reading the novel. Now that he had a name, he was no longer a generalization for all other Americans. It was Mark Lawson who wanted Changez, the Pakistani-Muslim dead, not all of America. Giving him a name and making him an assassin was meant to be a political statement.

Protected: Week 12: Dichotomy

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Week 8: MGMT Through a Sufi Interpretation

MGMT Sufi Style

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For this project, I decided I wanted to respond to the practice of Sufi music, dance, and symbols. Through lectures, sections, and class readings, I learned that participating in music and dance is an extraordinary experience for Sufis.  Though not all Sufis practice music and dance, it is still popular among many. The whole practice involves a state of spiritual ecstasy. Sufis forget everything else and reach intoxication with the remembrance of God. Movements to rhythmical music are made in self-denial to experience a bond with God.

This practice reminded me of a song by MGMT called 4th Dimensional Transition. Because the lyrics of this song are very vague (they remind me of ghazals), it is easy to interpret them in many ways, including as a description of phasing out of reality and into the 4th dimension. The lyrics are as followed:

I feel your racing heart.

My liquid, silver arms extended.

These waves aren’t far apart.

Black gold in clawfoot tarps, unchanging.

I am fire; where’s my form?

Whisper crimson; I intrude.

There’s light beneath your eyes.

New overtones in view.

Endless form, endless time.

If what they say is true,

you are a shadow in the fourth dimension.

To float away with you,

we see the corners where nothing happens.

While we drifted we were one.

Ceilings lifted; walls were gone.

You speak the language of the plenty, fluttered things.

All your leaves were meant for me.

The love that every person wants to be.

Stuck together, I don’t like revealing secrets.

I’ll live inside your lips if you won’t laugh.

I’m leaving hands on rotten fruit at last.

Fallow fingers, there’s a surface I can count on.

She’d fit inside my heart and take it over,

Till her cape got blown into my red, red lungs

Either there’s a purpose,

or I’m heading out at breakfast.

Take a drink, take a drag.

One more coffee, ugly hat.

No more mirrors, woolen bag.

And I am gone.

I think it is pretty easy to relate this song to Sufism due to the imagery of mirrors, love, escalation to a higher being, the color red/crimson like wine, and drinking itself.

I decided to interpret this song by making a stop motion for about 2/3 of the song using well over a hundred photographs. I strung the photos together into a video hoping to get these messages (in chronological order) across:

1. At first, there’s a heart that starts off small, grows bigger, and then begins to pump. This symbolizes the preparation before engaging in a Sufi dance. A Sufi must forget himself and let the heart takeover. The body erases all else from the mind and thinks about God through the heart.

2. A hand comes and takes away this heart. This symbolizes that the heart is now being taken over (by the love for God).

3. Another hand appears, and now both hands are raised, almost like for prayer.

4. Then the symbols of water and purity make their debut. This is supposed to match with the lyrics “These waves aren’t far apart.” This means that the wall that used to divide the Sufi and God is not as thick as it was before. The water, the pure state of being, has thinned down the wall just like water erodes rock.

5. Next, a man appears. He is faced with distractions that may cause him to lose focus of God. The distractions are evil and are signified with fire.

6. The man chooses to pray to regain focus of God. The distractions are forced away.

7. The man enters into a realm of meditation/prayer. A short clip of Sufi dance for meditation was integrated because I think the actual appearance of Sufi dance is an interesting sight.

8. After that clip is done, a wine glass appears. It goes from being empty to full. This signifies the transformation from reality and sobriety to an intoxication that takes one out of this world.

9. Alas, the wine glass falls, breaks, and all its contents are spilled from the glass. This signifies that the trance-like transformation is now over.

10. Yet, all the other symbols—the hearts, the hands, the water—come back again. That means that even though a Sufi is no longer in that heightened state of consciousness, God will remain in his thoughts. Now it’s just in a less filtered form, as signified by the paper balls that are thrown in at the end.

Ghazal Project: Waiting for Godot

One of my assignments for this class asked me to do the following: Compose a love poem (ghazal) or a narrative epic (mathnawi) in English using conventional images and themes drawn from the Arabic, Persian, and Urdu traditions. Your poem should be accompanied by a brief analysis; for the musically inclined the poem may be set to music and performed.

This is how I responded:

Waiting for Godot

by Marwa Harp

Such sweet wine flowing from thy lips, before its swallowed slowly it waits

The highest of Prophets reveling in awe, unknowingly it waits

Zachariah gets chance of pure unbounded fortune, inspiring

Yet no chance for an eternal companionship pact, sadly it waits

Testosterone in one system, Majnun the blinded knows this too well

Is thy love for Leyla or estrogen, for balance madly it waits

I need not trace the graphite castle in far skies to show my ached heart

A bird knows this all too well, for the journey reluctantly it waits

Time’s ripening every second like the apple Adam devoured

Quick show me you see my tender soul for Iblis secretly it waits

Your hands are a scalpel; my body the dirt under your fingertips,

Accepted this as the closest we’ll be till death eagerly it waits

Pushing me to joyous insanity, once quenched by word and stature,

Lingered smiles constantly find me, but my hunger strongly it waits

How many pleas before the concept of affection is fully grasped?

One hundred? Two thousand? Three million? When? The ayah clearly it waits

Vilify distance, create enmity towards boundaries today

Juxtaposed hearts, undulating to the same rhythm, gladly it waits

Affected, I am so, but the stamina for this I do not lack

Not Vladimir nor Estragon but Marwa knows hopefully It waits

 

Waiting for Godot, which is the title of my poem, is a ghazal that’s very influenced by an absurdist play with the same name. I read Waiting for Godot, the play by Samuel Beckett, back in high school. Its plot involves two characters waiting for a mysterious thing or person (we never really find out) named Godot day after day. But of course, Godot never shows up. There is no climax or anything to the play either. It’s just dialogue and interactions that occur while waiting for Godot in front of a leafless tree all day. There is a lot of present day controversy surrounding the actual identity of Godot.

My ghazal plays with Samuel Beckett’s writing and the idea that Godot is actually God. My ghazal is a dialogue for an unattainable beloved from a lover, a theme that is definitely not foreign to popular ghazal writers. It is composed of 10 couplets. Each line is made up of seventeen syllables. My rhyme scheme, or qafiya, is “ly” as in what is heard at the end of nearly all adverbs (like slowly, eagerly, strongly, and so on). The refrain, or radif, of my ghazal is “it waits.” The last couplet, which includes the takhullus, is where the tie to the play Waiting for Godot is most apparent.

There are allusions to the Quran and other spiritual and material Islamic symbols throughout the ghazal. Let’s dissect them couplet by couplet.

The first couplet, called the matla, uses the popular imagery of wine to explain the intoxicating nature of the love the lover has for the beloved, who is God in this particular ghazal. Before the lover is actually able to internalize (or swallow) that his love will never be requited, just that sensation of love overcomes him. The wine, before it is swallowed, is just a tease. Greater authorities (i.e. the Prophets) that observe this are in awe, and astonished even more when they realize the persistence of the lover’s unrequited love. The lover is pained by unreturned feelings, not knowing what will become of him, but still waits for the beloveds love back. This couplet could also be interpreted in a more graphic way. The sweet wine flowing from thy lips could actually be blood. When a person gets killed, blood often leaves through the mouth. This is symbolic of the excruciating pain the lover feels. Yet he does not die (he swallows the blood). This pain is okay because it is for God. In a video we watched in class, a young man says that suicide is haram in his Islam, but dying in the name of God is not suicide—rather you are considered a martyr if you do so. This idea is related to this first couplet. I chose to start my ghazal like this because the wine symbolism is signature to a lot of the ghazals I’ve read in this class.

The second couplet is an allusion to the Quran. Zachariah, Guardian of Mary wanted an offspring not only out of desire for a son but also because he believed the public needed a messenger. He prayed and prayed to God and against all odds was gifted a son, Yahiya also known as John the Baptist. The lover remembers this and feels some jealousy. He wants to attain a bond with God similar to the bond Zachariah attained. Yet he knows death is the closest he will get to an eternal relationship, and so for now, he has to wait.

The third couplet plays with the famous story of Leyla and Majnun. Qays and Leyla fall in love with each other when they are young, but when they grow up Leyla’s father opposes their relationship. Qays becomes crazy about her and that’s why he’s later given the name Majnun which literally means possessed. The love seems very genuine, but it also important to acknowledge the biology behind love. Love can be formed through love for a person’s personality, self, and soul, but it can also form because it balances nature. This couplet competes with the first two couplets, which are predominately about the lover and his relationship to God. This couplet is about unrecorded laws of the natural world, for lack of better terminology, regarding aspects like love.

The fourth couplet includes an allusion to one of the pillars of Islam and to the famous “Conference of the Birds” by Attar. The first line is an attack to orthopraxy. The lover is saying that he does not need to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca for his devotion to be recognized. After all, the birds in the Conference of the Birds, found God and peace within themselves and probably would have still done so even if they did not perform their journey.

The fifth couplet is yet another allusion to the Quran. This is about the story of Adam who ate the forbidden fruit due to the devil’s manipulation. The lover is asking God to help him out and return his love before external forces of evil impact him negatively. This couplet also highlights the dichotomy between time going by quickly, and time that goes by slowly. The couplet begins by saying time is moving really fast, but ends up saying that waiting must be done. This is often the case with many emotional events. The sorrows lag on, and you may want to speed up to get over the unhappiness. But when time is needed, it also seems to escape you before you are fully able to appreciate it.

The sixth couplet demonstrates play on words and highlights how easy it is to interpret things two different ways. From the very get go, the imagery of a scalpel is introduced. A scalpel could be used like a pick, to create things. A scalpel could also be used to cut things open. This dual interpretation of a scalpel, as both a tool for creation and a tool for destruction, explains an aspect of God’s being. God created all, but also has the power to destroy all. And compared to God, we are nothing, not even the dirt under His fingertips. Here the lover is coming to this self-realization that maybe he is unworthy of being loved back after all. He would have to wait until the afterlife to find out.

The seventh couplet is another elaboration on the feelings of unfulfilled love. I thought using the words “joyous insanity” was very fitting. It is indicative of loving to the point of craziness, like the love Qays had for Leyla that earned him the title of Majnun. This thirst for love was once quenched by the words of the Messenger and Idol worship, but it is no longer enough. And it is no longer just thirst, which comes about after being denied water for days; the deprivation has escalated to hunger, which comes about after being denied food for weeks and even months.

The eight couplet shows that the lover has set aside his dignity and has come to the point of begging. It is a lighter couplet in meaning meant to balance the other couplets that are more symbol intensive. The lover is asking the beloved for an ayah, or a sign.

The ninth couplet, leaves the atmosphere of pain, jealously, and need that the other couplets fall in. The lover has come to terms with most things by now. He tells the beloved what he wants, and then accepts that it is a waiting game. They are different people, but they are soul mates nonetheless. The beloved is worth the wait and the lover is appreciative and happy that he has someone/something in his life that was able to make him feel this way in the first place.

The final couplet is a non-threatening statement of warning to the beloved. The lover admits that this has affected him, but he will not give up. This couplet includes the takhullus (or my name in other words). It also includes a reference to Waiting for Godot—Vladimir and Estragon are the names of the two characters waiting for Godot in the play. The play ends with the two completing yet another failed day waiting for Godot to arrive. Together they decide they will try again the next day, and if Godot fails to arrive yet again, they will commit suicide. However, the lover in this ghazal is not like Vladimir or Estragon. He chooses to live on and rather, now it is time for the beloved to wait. In every preceding couplet, the word “it” before “waits” is not capitalized. It’s capitalized in the last couplet however because It is actually God.

As a whole, the couplets are pretty unrelated except for the fact that each end with the same rhyme and refrain and follow the general theme of unfulfilled love. In some instances the couplets may even contradict each other if interpreted in certain ways. The multiple meanings and competing ideas are done on purpose, as they are key components of ghazals.

Ghazal

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Putting it All Together: Dubai Reflections

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On March 14, 2014, I was fortunate enough to go overseas for the first time ever to explore the beauty that is Dubai. Not only was I super excited to ditch the cold weather of Cambridge for the warm sun and sandy beaches of the United Arab Emirates, but I was also extremely excited to expand my knowledge on Islam by visiting a Muslim country. One of the first things to catch my eyes immediately was the dress code. I used to think that women dressing modestly in a ‘abbiyah dress, and with a shaylah headscarf was a cultural thing or at least a religious act of personal choice. In actuality, the country has its own mandated dress code. School buildings, mosques, and other public places have signs outlining the right attire. The picture below was taken in front of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. At first, I shrugged off the dress code. I thought my long pants and short-sleeved shirt were perfectly decent. But as soon as I tried to take a picture in front of the mosque, security asked me to either cover up or leave. Of course, I chose to cover up. However, not all people follow these rules. For example, while touring the American University of Dubai and shopping in the malls, the people I saw looked like Westerners with their clothing. I figure that the dress code is more important in certain places versus others. Another thing that I found really interesting was the broadcasting of the adhan in all public places. As we learned in the first week of this class, the adhan is the call to prayer. I would be shopping in a store blasting hip-hop, and then suddenly the music would cease and the adhan would be heard. The idea of prayer is definitely very important in Dubai. In addition to having the adhan heard everywhere, nearly all public bathrooms have little, almost shower-like stalls where the wudu, or cleansing before prayer, could be performed. On one of the days of my trip, I visited the Gold and Spice Souq (market), which is home to the largest gold ring in the world. Immediately, I was bombarded by locals wanting to sell me goods. The goods ranged from luxurious things like iPhones, Louis Vuitton bags, and gold, to souvenir key chains, pashmina scarves, and water bottles. I drew a connection immediately to the story we read in week 7, “The Beggar’s Strike.” The men in the souq weren’t beggars, but they did want money. And ultimately, if they were not supplied with money, the whole souq, which is a great tourist attraction, would go downhill. I empathize with the characters in the story that felt overwhelmed by those who asked for money, but I understand that the “beggars” are needed for the prosperity of the community. Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi was one of the highlights of my trip. The mosque was a project begun by the late president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who is buried besides the same mosque. The mosque, both on the inside and outside, is so beautiful that it comes as no surprise that it attracts millions of tourists. The walls on the inside especially are adorned with magnificent detail and the use of flower and geometric arabesque patterns that we talked about in week 6 are apparent. In week 6, we also learned about different styles of mosques. I feel like when I hear the word mosque, I normally think of those that are architecturally similar to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. When we learned about the Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali, I didn’t think I would ever come across a similar looking building. Lo and behold, I came across not a mosque, but a building that looks very similar to the mosque in Mali. It was in the area of Bastakiya in Dubai. It is pictured below. I was very fortunate that when I visited Bastakiya, Sikka was going on. Sikka is basically an art fair, and I was also lucky enough to meet one of the artists, Woodman Taylor, who has very close ties to Harvard and is actually even a friend of Professor Asani. One of the pieces of art that struck me the most in Bastakiya is pictured below. I don’t even think that this was made specifically for Sikka, for it looks like it has a permanent place on the wall of one of the buildings in Bastakiya. This painting shows the clash between geometrical art and urban art. It shows the clash between colors and black and white. It looks like a cultural piece with the teakettle and oud, but the character in the art is wearing Islamic attire. I feel as if I can analyze this for days if I really wanted to. Though getting henna done, riding camels, going on a desert safari, overlooking the rest of Dubai from atop the Burj Khalifa, and doing much more touristy things were incredible, being able to experience some of the things we have talked about in this class in a natural setting was the most gratifying part of my trip.

Week 7: Kaaba Money Collector

In week 7, we learned about the Five Pillars of Islam. The Pillars include reciting the Shahada, performing Salat five times a day, fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan, giving Zakat, and going on the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) at least once in a lifetime. I think having what are essentially bullet points to follow is a good thing because they provide direct rules that allow a Muslim to follow a righteous path. However, it is often hard to shape life around these five pillars, especially in parts of the western world. For example, whereas in Muslim countries the salat is performed communally after the adhaan, or call to prayer, is broadcasted throughout the town, the United States does not do that.

My project tries to combat some of this. I tried to make performing one of the five pillars, zakat, an essentially doable thing even in my own dorm room. I also included an aspect that will serve as a reminder for going on the Hajj to perform the pilgrimage.

Zakat is almsgiving. It is associated with the idea of “purification” and is linked back to a verse of the Quran which goes like, “O Prophet! Take alms of their wealth, wherewith you may purify them and may make them grow, and pray for them” (Qur’an 9:103). Additionally, the act of giving zakat instills a social conscience (compassion and sharing) and promotes a philanthropic instinct urging Muslims to share individual resources with the less privileged. In the story “The Beggar’s Strike,” zakat was also given to beggars so that the beggars would pray on behalf of the donor.

My project is essentially a Kaaba shaped piggy bank used to collect loose change. The goal is to collect a predetermined goal amount and then donate it. The Kaaba I made tries to mimic the real thing in Mecca. I made it black and adorned it with gold details. On the back of the “piggy bank” is a little see through pocket which can hold larger amounts of money. The little pocket can be written on with a dry erase marker in order to write a collection goal or to keep track of the money inside the box. The greatest component of the box is that whatever goes in essentially cannot come back out without destroying the box. That means, before any amount of money is put in, a lot of thought must be done.

I chose to make the piggy bank in the shape of the Kaaba because of its significance in Islam and its relationship to another one of the fiver pillars of Islam, the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Kaaba used to be a place of worship of idols until Prophet Muhammad re-dedicated it to the worship of one God. According to the Quran, it is the noblest and most ancient sanctuary.

On the top of the piggy bank, I handwrote Surat Al-Mā`ūn which translates to:

Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense?

For that is the one who drives away the orphan

And does not encourage the feeding of the poor.

So woe to those who pray

[But] who are heedless of their prayer –

Those who make show [of their deeds]

And withhold [simple] assistance.

This project will be used throughout the year and the money collected will be given to an organization that is to be determined.

Week 3: Hafiz Jersey

When I am asked who I consider to be the most accomplished people, I normally think of scientists, doctors or people who overcame great obstacles to be in the great positions they are in now. Little do I think of religion when I reply. However, after taking this class, my mentality has changed. Huffaz al-Quran are extremely accomplished people. Hafiz al-Quran literally translates to “Guardian of the Quran” and is used to denote one who has memorized the Quran in its entirety. In Islam, a Hafiz is looked highly upon for he or she would have achieved the ultimate. This title isn’t thrown around recklessly—Huffaz are tested on their knowledge. For example, in one test they are asked to continue the recitation of a passage taken randomly from the Quran. Since they do not know which passage will be chosen, they must know the whole text in order to be sure of passing. In another test, a would-be hafiz might be asked to recite verses containing a specific word or phrase.

The significance of a Hafiz dates way back in early Islam. The Quran was revealed very early when most of the audience was still illiterate. The only way to keep the sacred words alive was by memorizing and passing them down until a capable person could eventually write it.  Memorization was also considered to be more secure—a manuscript could easily be destroyed, but if the Qur’anwas to be memorized by many huffaz, it would never be lost.

For my project, I made a jersey. On the upper back is the word Hafiz written in multiple colors and filled with different arabesque designs. Underneath this is the number 99, which refers to the 99 names of God. The tag of the shirt reads “Not for Sale, Must be Earned.” The point of this shirt was to highlight the success of Huffaz. Just like athletes have jerseys to signify their physical potencies, this jersey symbolizes spiritual strength. I chose to make this on a green-colored shirt because green is associated with Imam Husayn and because green is the color of nature, something that plays a big role in Islam and Islamic art. Though modesty is a key aspect in Islam, I believe that a Hafiz should be recognized not only for the glory but also in order to inspire others or be located easily in the time of need.

Insha’Allah this shirt will be put to use one day.

Week 2: Berti Inspired Mug

While doing the discussion readings for week 2, I became very intrigued in the practice of Berti erasure, or the “drinking” of the Quran. Berti people of Sudan treat different symptoms using religious “medicine.” Fakis, or graduates of Quranic schools who claim to have memorized the Quran in its entirety, write verses of the Quran onto both sides of a wooden slate (loh) using a pen made of millet stalk and ink made from fermented paste of soot and gum arabic. The sacred words are then washed off with water and drunk.

Similar to amulets, erasure highlights the belief in the strength of divine words. Wearing or owning a religious amulet or drinking erasure are both believed to cure sicknesses, protect against dangers, and bring about happiness. The reason the popularity with amulets and erasure came about probably has to do with Quranic verses that say that the Quran has healing powers.

For my project, I wanted to combine both the idea of an amulet and the idea of erasure to create something that is relevant to a college student: the concept of being taught. I got a black coffee mug and with glitter wrote 3 verses of a surah that translate to:

Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous,

Who has taught (the writing) by the pen

Has taught man that which he knew not.

In the Surah itself, these 3 verses do not have to do with education or knowledge. Surat al-Alaq, the surah where these verses are from, actually translates to “The Clot” which wanders far from the idea of learning. But without the context of the other verses, these few words are related to education. The mug serves as a means to “drink” liquids “blessed” by the words of the Quran in order to promote the ability to better acquire education/knowledge.

I chose to write the verses with glitter on a plain black mug for several reasons. I wanted the focus of the mug to be on the words and the color black is a very non distracting color whereas the silver glitter draws in attention. I chose a coffee mug because coffee is often attributed to college students who yearn for the guidance or blessings of education that is metaphorically supplied by the verses. At the same time, this coffee mug isn’t the typical shape of a coffee mug. Rather, it looks like the top of a wine glass. This alludes to poems that use wine-drinking descriptions as references to the ecstasy or intoxication caused by divine love. God “taught man that which he knew not” so we must love and appreciate God back.

Week 1: Shahada Star Decoration

Today, there are many different definitions of a true Muslim. This variation is mostly due to cultural interpretations versus religious reasons, for the Quran does not specifically define what a Muslim is, just that a muslim is a submitter of God. The term Muslim, beginning with a capital M, is a post Quranic creation. In most cultures, a Muslim is defined as someone who follows the five pillars of Islam: they recite the Shahada, they perform Salat five times a day, they fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan, they give Zakat, and they go on the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) at least once in their lifetime. There are some discrepancies that arise with this because again, the Quran does not outline “rules” to be a good Muslim. Although many people believe that their position as a Muslim is determined by a personal relationship with God, a universally accepted definition of a Muslim is one who simply follows the first pillar, or one who recites the Shahada, the Islamic testimony or creed of faith.

The Shahada is arguably the most important article of faith for Muslims. Almost all Muslims say that anyone who believes what they recite in the Shahda  are part of the Islamic community. The Shahada is composed of two universal parts and a third part particular to the Shia Muslim Communities. The first part is translated to “There is no god but God” and the second part is translated to “and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” Shia Muslims add “Ali, the master of believers, is the friend of God.”

For my project, I created a moon and star wooden cutout inscribed with the Shahada and names of prominent identities in the Islamic religion. The moon and star shapes are used because they are very often attributed to the religion. The symbolism behind the moon and star shapes can be traced back to the idea of ayat, or “signs,” from God. A big component of Islam is the belief in a single miraculous God and the signs and evidence of this lie in the phenomena of the world like the stars and moons. After appreciating those kinds of incredible things, its hard to deny that a divine being created them. A verse in the Quran goes ““(Here) indeed are the signs (ayat) for a people that are wise.” Another goes “Wherever you turn, there is the face of God.” These two verses highly motivated the shape of the medium of my project.

The green and yellow/gold color scheme is related to the colors often associated with Imam Husayn and his family, a person central to Shia Islam. I chose to do this in correlation with my decision to inscribe the third part of the Shahada onto my project. The moon part of the project symbolizes the Islamic community and the stars are raised to signify the great importance of Allah, Muhammad, and Ali who are essentially leaders of this Islamic community. Allah is written in a bigger star than Muhammad and Ali for obvious reasons. The stars are outlined in gold glitter to elaborate their divine importance. All the words are written in Arabic because that is the language the Quran was revealed to Muhammad in.

One of the aspects of the Quran is to serve as a reminder because the human race is very forgetful—the purpose of this project is very similar. I chose this medium for my project for practical reasons. It serves as a “reminder” of my faith. It has a little ribbon on the back that allows it to be hung. I plan on displaying this in my dorm room to act as a reminder of who I am and what I believe in during the busy and rough times, like exam weeks, where I am often religiously forgetful.