An Introduction

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Islam is a multifaceted and diverse religion.  It is adaptive and malleable, yet it is also grounded in fundamental truths and realities that persist throughout time.  With seemingly contradictory and conflicting characteristics, it may seem difficult to study and understand the religion.  One could fall into the trap of the Orientalists and create rigid and static constructs rooted in Western historical traditions that oversimplify the religion for the sake of convenience (Necipoglu, 62).  Or one could study the minutia of the religion, becoming lost in its vastness and expansiveness only to give up its study before important realizations are made.

How then can someone who does not desire to be a scholar of Islam, yet wants to gain an understanding of Islam begin to learn about the religion?  The solution to this question lies in the use of the cultural studies approach.  The cultural studies approach allows one to understand religion in the human contexts in which they are situated (Asani, 9).  Unlike other approaches to the study of religion, this approach is primarily concerned with the people who practice and interpret religion.  It recognizes that religion is a fundamental and pervasive aspect of human experiences and thus encourages one to study religion through multiple, integrated “lenses”, including but not limited to, political, economic, cultural, and social lenses (Asani, Infidel 10).

One may think that this approach will complicate the study of Islam.   However, at its core, this approach to studying Islam focuses on the people who practice the faith.  It is my personal belief that studying religion through those that practice it allows one to understand the religion being studied at a much deeper and more intimate level because it makes the religion more relatable and more personable.  It takes a monolithic construct and perception of Islam, and decomposes it into smaller, more diverse and approachable components through the study of the people who practice it.  Thus, by learning about Islam through those that practice it, I believe one can slowly learn to appreciate the multi-faceted nature of Islam and learn the universal truths that define Islam and how these manifest in different contexts.

Through my study of Islam in this course, I have additionally learned that the art that is created as a response to religion can provide insights into the religion that cannot be grasped from just studying the practices and scripture that surround it.  In particular, I have found that by studying “Islamic” art, one can catch a glimpse into the window that is the artist’s perception of Islam.  In a truly imitative fashion, I have created multiple works of art related to different Islamic cultural contexts to put myself in those cultural contexts.  Throughout the semester, I have found two things in particular very interesting.  First, I have found it interesting how Islam has been used as a response to history and changing cultural contexts.  Second, I have found it interesting how cultural contexts have been used to frame Islam in unique ways and how Islam has adapted to fit these cultural contexts.  These two themes feature prominently in my blog entries.  It is my hope that before viewing my entries, I can provide some insight into these two themes and how they convey knowledge about the diversity and malleability of Islam.

Islam has been used as a response to history and political in community specific contexts based on political realities as well as a response to changing cultural contexts across many different communities.  I will first address how Islam has been used as a response to history by using the example of Shiism and how the political reality of defeat became a part of Shia ethos.  Shiism, at its core, developed in response to a matter of succession after the Prophet’s death.  Shias believed that Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, was chosen as the Prophet’s successor by the Prophet himself (Daftary, 164).  In later years, his claim to authority evolved beyond just that of a political leader, as he was believed by many to be the “Hand of God” or someone who possessed religious and spiritual authority that expanded beyond human reason (Chelkowski, 2).  One can then imagine the shock that Ali’s supporters suffered when Ali was murdered because of a matter of political succession.  However, the community was even more shocked when Husayn, Ali’s son and successor, was murdered at the Battle of Karbala in a brutal fashion (Chelkowski, 2).  It was at this point that Shiism emerged as a separate sect of the Muslim community and when several elements central to Shia ethos emerged (Daftary, 166), in particular that the suffering of Imams is because the righteous suffer in this world, and that this suffering is redemptive and leads to salvation in the after-life (Asani Lecture Week 5).  Many thus commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn during Muharram as an act of faith and as a way to obtain religious salvation.  In one particularly dramatic art form practiced in Iran called the ta’ziyeh, actors and the audience engage in a re-enactment of the Battle of Karbala, not only to hold solidarity with Husayn, but also as a religious act in the hopes that by suffering with Husayn, they can achieve redemption and Husayn’s grace in the after-life (Chelkowski, 3).  One can thus see how the practices and beliefs surrounding a particular branch of Islam evolved in response to history, and how art can be used to observe this.

One can also see how Islam has been used as a response to changing cultural contexts.  I will use the example of modernity, specifically the rise of the West, to convey this.  With the rise of the West, many Muslims were confused about the changing political landscape.  Unlike the Shia, a majority of Muslims were Sunni and had a history of political triumph, believing that such success was a sign of divine affirmation.  Changing contexts thus troubled many (Rozehnal, 105).  Because of the religious nature of political triumph in Islamic thought, responses to modernity were religiously oriented and varied.  However, many were linked in that they wanted to define and interpret Islam in a modern context and in relation to the West.  One group of responses attempted to reconcile Islam with Western thought.  For example, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, the founder of the Aligarh Movement that aimed to educate Indian Muslims, believed that Islamic and Western thought were compatible.  He believed that Islam, as properly understood, was progress and that there was no fundamental conflict between the modern practice of science and Islamic thought (Asani, Week 11).  Some reformers went so far as to state that the West is Islam at its most fundamental level.  The Egyptian reformer, Tahtawi, said the following after he visited Paris: “When I was in Europe, I saw much Islam everywhere but I saw very few Muslims; now I am back in Egypt, I see many Muslims but little Islam” (Asani, Week 11).  We can see evidence of this assimilation of Western thought with Islam in the works of several Muslim artists.  We see, for example, an American Islam that combines American music, like rap, with Sufi themes.  We also see mosques that are distinctly Islamic, but which blend into Western environments (Asani, Week 13).

Other responses aimed to define Islam in opposition to the West, ironically, by using Islam as a political ideology to otherize others, similar to how Western countries used the concept of nationality to do the same centuries earlier.  One particular response that did this, Wahabbism, began in the late 18th century by Abd al-Wahhab who strove to remove what he saw as imperfections in Islam.  His intolerant views were adopted by the Al-Saud family as a way to rebel against Ottoman rule in Arabia.  In a sense, Wahhabism became inextricably tied with Arab nationalism and was subsequently spread throughout the Muslim world through Saudi Arabia’s petrodollars (Asani, Week 11).  The allure of Wahhabism for many non-Arabs occurred because of the perceived loss of inherited normative categories and practices that had come to define Islam, leading to a socio-cultural alienation in Muslim minds (Safi, 46).  To cope with this, Muslims adopted the most reactionary and fundamentalist ideology that was presented to them: Wahhabism (Safi, 54).  Thus, what had once begun as a movement to “purify” Islam by removing the multiplicity of interpretation in Islam became a source of nationalism, one that initially was exclusive to Arabian culture but which soon expanded to other regions suffering from the pressures of colonialism, modernity, and the absolute hegemony of the West (Safi, 43-44).

This response was not limited to Saudi Arabia and those within its spheres of influence.  Iran, in a similar manner, developed Shia Islam, uncharacteristic of Shia values, as a political and nationalist ideology in response to Garbzadagi or Westoxification (Buchman, 87).  This form of Islam was developed during and after the chaos of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini in part to address the Westoxification or the interference of the West in Iranian affairs (Buchman, 80-81).  Fundamental Shia doctrines were altered to change Shia Islam into a political ideology.  Islamic law, in the pre-modern era in Iran, was never enforced, as religious authorities did not have political authority except for the hidden Imam, who was in a state of occultation (Buchman, 82).  However, Khomeini and his supporters specifically created a theological doctrine that would allow religious scholars to look back at the usul, or roots, to allow innovations in doctrinal thought.  Eventually, this was used to create a strict political ideology that defined itself in opposition to Garbzadagi as a way, I believe, to promote a nationalist agenda (Buchman, 82).  Evidence for this rests in the actions of Khomeini.  He did not abolish secular institutions, like the government and the economic policies of the shah, but rather expanded these policies to solidify control and to create a “modern Islamic theology”, one that was used for nationalist purposes (Buchman, 91-92).  Several artistic responses have emerged in response to the politicization and rigidity of Islam in these contexts.  In Pakistan, a rock artist named Salman Ahmad has responded to what he views as increasing fundamentalism in his country (Asani, Week 12).  A comic book artist, Marjane Satrapi in her comic Persepolis, highlights the rigid Islam forced upon many during the Iranian Revolution.  And an author, Mohsin Hamid in his novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist, shows the dangers of otherization in response to political and cultural differences.

We also see how cultural contexts have been used to engage with Islam.  Cultural contexts have been used to establish a framework by which to evaluate Islam in ways that make it relatable to the indigenous population.  We see this many times in many cultural contexts.  For the sake of example, I will refer to different depictions of Muhammad in different cultures.  In the Sindh region of Pakistan, depictions and love for the Prophet and the values of Islam are depicted in a uniquely Sindhi poetic form called the maulud (Asani, In Praise 160).  The maulud, literally meaning newborn child, praises the Prophet in a manner that is patterned after indigenous poetic forms (Asani, In Praise 161).  He is represented in symbols and idioms that are familiar to the Sindhi audience, the most common symbol being that of the virahini: a loving and yearning woman who is tormented by the absence of her lover  (Asani, In Praise 162).  The virahini is used in many different South Asian religious contexts, for example in praise of Krsna, however, we can see how it has been adopted by Sindhi Muslim poets to convey a love for the Prophet, and by extension Islam in a way that is relatable to the indigenous population.  Muhammad, in this manner, is depicted as an archetype of sorts, someone who should be desired and emulated.  In this way, the values of Islam are also depicted as desirable.  Through this art form, we can thus see exactly how culture can be used to engage with Islam and its values, and the malleability of Islamic values to fit different cultural contexts.

We see evidence of this in the Swahili tradition as well.  In Knappert’s translation of various myths and legends surrounding Muhammad, we can see an almost mystical depiction of the birth of Prophet Muhammad, reflecting the traditions of the Swahili that predated Islam (Knappert, 68-72).  In a particularly interesting account of Muhammad’s ascension to the heavens, or Mi’raj, we see how such a pivotal event in Islamic history and theology has been adapted to fit Swahili cultural contexts.  The Swahili version of this narrative introduces an innovation in the traditional telling of the story in that the Prophet also visited Hell.  From this, we can catch a glimpse of various cultural and social realities of the Swahili people that were depicted using Islam and Muhammad’s journey.  We see women who were tortured because they were unchaste, because they verbally abused their husbands, because they refused to lay with their husbands, and because they went out at night (Knappert, 76-78).  We also see people punished for disobeying their parents, and people punished for being polytheists and dualists (Knappert, 79).  This depiction shows not only the problems afflicting Swahili society at the time of the original telling, but also shows the relation of Islam and Islamic values to these problems.  An Islamic framework was used to address, and potentially solve, these problems.  We can see therefore, how different cultures and traditions can use a common story and figure, like the Mir’aj and Prophet Muhammad, to engage with Islam on a deeper, more personal level.

Samuel Huntington, a prominent scholar, proposed a thesis in which he postulated that the main source of conflict in the post-Cold War world would be differences in peoples’ religious and cultural identities.  One can see how this relates to the West’s relations with Islam.  The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, addresses this thesis by claiming that any conflict is not because of fundamental differences between civilizations, but because of an “ignorance of civilizations”.  He says:

Those who talk about an inevitable “clash of civilizations” can point today to an accumulating array of symptoms which sometimes seems to reflect their diagnosis. I believe, however, that this diagnosis is wrong, that its symptoms are more dramatic than they are representative, and that these symptoms are rooted in human ignorance rather than human character. The problem of ignorance is a problem that can be addressed. Perhaps it can even be ameliorated but only if we go to work on our educational tasks with sustained energy, creativity, and intelligence.  (Asani, Infidel 2).

According to the Aga Khan, many of the problems Islamic and Western civilizations experience today can be solved with an understanding of cultures and peoples.

It is my hope that I have imparted some of this understanding on the multiplicity of interpretations in Islam and the malleable nature of Islam, specifically that it can fit different cultures, politics, and peoples.  I hope I have shown that it can used as both a response to the world and as a way to understand it.  Most importantly, however, I hope you will realize that it is not a monolith and to consider it as such is to be ignorant.  Now enjoy my blog entries and the multiple perspectives of Islam that they try to depict and imitate.

Bibliography:

Asani, Ali. “In praise of Muhammad: Sindhi and Urdu poems.” Religions of India in Practice, Donald S. Lopez, Jr., ed. (1995): 159-186.

Asani, Ali. “Infidel of Love: Exploring Muslim Understandings of Islam.” (2010).

Asani, Ali “Week 5”. AI 54. Sever 102, Cambridge.  24 Feb. 2014. Lecture

Asani, Ali “Week 11”. AI 54. Sever 102, Cambridge.  15 Apr. 2014. Lecture

Asani, Ali “Week 12”. AI 54. Sever 102, Cambridge.  22 Apr. 2014. Lecture

Asani, Ali “Week 13”. AI 54. Sever 102, Cambridge.  1 May 2014. Lecture

Buchman, David “Shi’ite Islam in Contemporary Iran.” Islam in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives (2004): 75.

Chelkowski, Peter J., ed. Ta’ziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran. New York: New York University Press, 1979.

Daftary, Farhad. “Diversity in Islam: Communities of Interpretation.” The Muslim Almanac. Detroit: Gale Research Inc (1996): 161-172.

Knappert, J. 1970.Myths and Legends of the Swahili. London: Heinemann.

Necipoglu, Gülru. Topkapi Scroll: Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture. Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities., 1996.

O., Safi,. Progressive Muslims: on justice, gender and pluralism. City: Oneworld, 2003.

Rozehnal, Robert. “Debating Orthodoxy, Contesting Tradition.” Islam in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. Santa Barbara (2004): 103-131.

Week 12: Persepolis and Pakistan

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Medium: Digital Media

Pakistan_Collage

Explanation:

This digital media piece is inspired by both the story Persepolis and by the current situation in Pakistan discussed in class during Week 12.  In Persepolis, particularly in Chapter 1, we see that the narrator, Marjane Satrapi, cannot understand the religious importance of the veil.  She is religious, and grew up with religion, but she comes from a “modern and avant-garde” family.  She and her family drink, engage in dances, play cards, and indulge in Western consumerism, yet they consider themselves Muslims and religious.  After the Iranian “Islamic Revolution” in 1979 however, we see just how a monolithic interpretation of Islam was imposed on the people of Iran through Satrapi’s eyes.  Any difference in opinion or practice was systematically eliminated, with different interpretations of Islam viewed as the “other” and thus reviled because of what was viewed as “Western contamination”.

After watching the movie in lecture highlighting Salman Ahmad’s journey to Northern Pakistan and the increasing religiously oriented enmity that his music experienced despite Pakistan’s long and rich musical history, I felt as if Satrapi’s experience is becoming increasingly relatable to many Pakistanis, despite different social and cultural contexts.  Many in Pakistan are being increasingly influenced by the Wahhabi tradition, which in my opinion imposes a monolithic interpretation of Islam on its people.  I believe this will not work in Pakistan because of the multiplicity of people and traditions within Pakistan itself.

This work attempts to draw on the multiplicity of traditions and people in Pakistan.  I will not go into detail on the specific pictures, as the purpose of this image was to give a cursory understanding of the people of Pakistan by visual inspection; however, I will point certain things out.

We see women both covered and non-covered praying.  We see Christians as well as Muslims praying.  We see people with different occupations, from businessmen to street vendors to farmers, contributing to society.  We see sport stars, fashion models, rock stars, and people at Western parties.  We see Punjabis, Pashtuns, and Sindhis engaging in traditional cultural dance and music.  We see modern looking women and we see more traditional looking women performing modern occupations.  And we see members of the ulamah, attempting to engage with “modern” youth as well as members who are berating the youth for engaging in Western practices.  Overall, we see a diverse Pakistan, like the Iran that Satrapi experienced before the Iranian Revolution that would be grievously harmed if a monolithic interpretation of Islam was imposed on it.

Week 13: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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Medium: Colored Pencil/Drawing

Week13

Explanation:

In Mohsin Hamid’s novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, we see that the main character, Changez, suffers from a dual identity.  He is at one end, an educated Princeton elite who engages in business with a reputable firm, and at the other end, he is a Pakistani.  At first, there is very little conflict between these two identities.  Changez recognized that he was an outsider, yet wanted to engage with America, as seen by his interest in a relationship with Erica.  Erica, who I believe represents America in this novel, even encourages his Pakistani mannerisms finding them endearing.  The people at his office in Underwood Samson also have no qualms with his being a Pakistani.  It is only after the events of 911 and Changez’s increased assertion of his Pakistani identity (by wearing a beard for example) that hostilities begin to arise.  His coworkers at Underwood Samson begin to feel uneasy with his presence.  He is randomly accosted on the streets.  He is detained in airports.

By no means was Changez a fundamentalist, even when he was teaching in Pakistan and using anti-American rhetoric.  He was not particularly religious and he did not endorse violence.  He even drank on a regular basis!  However, in the American world view post-911, it sees that either you are American or a fundamentalist or the “other”, which is precisely what Changez experienced.

This work attempts to covey the often binary classification that many Muslims experienced in America post 911 using Changez as an example.  Colored pencils were used to convey that this was something I experienced as well after 911.  I was a fourth grader at the time working on a Venn diagram the morning of the attack, and so the use of colored pencils and the Venn diagram serve a symbolic purpose that ties me (the artist at the time of the attacks) to the events that transpired during and after 911.  We see two of Changez’s identities (that of an American and that of a Pakistani) on either side of the Venn diagram.  However, we see that these identities cannot intersect in the current post 911 environment shown by the intersection being blacked out.  There thus exists a literal polarity, or separation of identities.  If one does not act American or look American, one cannot integrate with American culture.

Steps are being made, I believe, to remedy this problem.  I am a Muslim American who feels increasingly comfortable expressing my identity, and we saw in class that many young Muslim rappers, fashion lovers, and others  are comfortable expressing their Muslim and American identities.

Week 10: The Mathnawi

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Medium: Mathnawi (Poetry/Word)

Let me begin by telling a tale of sorrow

Between the wind and the pollen of a yarrow

 

The wind carried the pollen with force and vigor

The pollen, sad not knowing that something bigger

 

Was in her destiny; all she was concerned for

Was being in comfort and thus her soul was poor

 

Resisting the wind, demanding that she return

The pollen said it is my flower that I yearn.

 

The pollen with the brisk wind serving as her guide

Traveled and experienced the world far and wide

 

She became a part of the wind, one with its grace

She realized then it was with the wind, her place.

 

One day the wind left her on a tall, fertile knoll.

The pollen was crushed and desperate and her sad soul

 

Yearned for the day she could be with her Beloved

She became a yarrow so her pollen could spread.

 

Hoping one day with the wind she could reunite.

Hoping that a part of her could again catch sight

 

Of the wind, her lover the great omnipresent

In whose presence the pollen is but a peasant

 

The pollen intoxicated with the sweet wine,

Of a lover’s embrace, the pollen lost her time.

 

Each flower in a garden cries out in sadness

Its beauty a way to hide its inner madness

 

When you see pollen in its lover’s grasp floating

Think of the message that the lovers are posing

 

Leave the incarnate world and what you know behind

Embrace your love, your desire for the Divine.

 

Lest you lose your chance and your opportunity

To become one with God, to enjoy Unity

 

This is a story narrated by Mubeen

Who peels nature’s windows and hopes from them to glean

The true nature of the world, to see the unseen.

 

Explanation

This poem attempts to draw symbolism from traditional mathnawi themes, with a twist based on personal experience (essentially what we experience in contemporary society).  The poem consists of rhyming couplets with a set 12 syllables per line, mimicking traditional mathnawi  (with the exception of the last stanza which has three lines).

The poem depicts the love of pollen with the wind, and how through the wind she is able to experience the world and all of its majesty.  Initially, the pollen was hesitant and did not want to follow the wind, as following the wind was out of her comfort zone.  However, through Divine grace, the pollen is gifted with the presence of the wind.  This attempts to draw from contemporary experience in that what often the best course of action many do not take because it is not easy.  However, once she experiences the world through the wind, she falls in love with it, not wanting to leave it.  The wind one day, leaves the pollen, and the pollen experiences the pain of separation from the wind.  This is a common theme is mathnawi, and I attempted to depict this by giving an example of nature.  This also draws on a lot of the literature that we have discussed in and read for class.  Nature is generally seen as being attuned with God, and exists to praise Him.  This theme was drawn upon in this work.  The imagery of wine is also drawn upon.  The pollen becomes intoxicated with the idea of being with the wind, similar to how the Sufi mystics use wine as imagery to show a blind love with the Divine.

The wind was used as a symbol of the Divine because of the association between whirling dervishes and the poetry of Rumi.  The whirling dervishes in my mind represent a “dancing” on the wind to come close to God.  In that light, I wanted the pollen to “dance” on the wind as a representation of being with the Divine.  

Overall, I tried to explain the pain of separation that one has when one is not with the Divine , but also the hesistancy that we experience in contemporary society when we don’t accept our spiritual self.  I believe these two ideas reflect the essence of the Mathnawi.

 

Week 3: Mi’raj and Isra In the Quran

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Medium: Photoshop/Digital Media

This work represents Prophet Muhammad’s ascent through the Seven Heavens during the events of Isra and Mi’raj.  According to the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, and in Sura 17 of the Quran, Prophet Muhammad met Jibreel and a white horse with the head of a woman, and then set out to Al-aqsa and then through the seven heavens and meet Allah.  The first part of his journey is referred to as the Isra while his ascent through the heavens is referred to as the Mir’aj.

This particular work attempted to incorporate many different depictions of the Mi’raj, and to combine them in a way that showed my own interpretation of the events.  The Prophet and the Buraq are seen at the bottom of a staircase, ready to be guided by Jibreel up the heavens.  Here, the ascent up the heavens is represented by the staircase.  This is somewhat of a Western notion of an ascent, but I feel as if it was the best way to represent the many levels and dimensions of heaven, as narrated by the Prophet.

The Prophet is seen holding a book.  This was done intentionally to show the Sufi aspect of the ascent, in that the journey may not have been a physical one, but rather a metaphorical one that all are capable of if they “polish the mirror of their hearts”.  This also attempts to show that there are multiple interpretations of the Quran including both the metaphorical and the literal.   A book was specifically used to reference this because of the special place that devotional literature has in Sufi thought and customs, as well as the role that Qur’an, a “Holy Book” has on Islamic beliefs and customs.

Along the staircase, we see several names in Arabic.  These are the names of the Prophets that Prophet Muhammad met.  Prophet Muhammad met Adam, then Jesus, then Joseph, then Moses, and finally Allah (who is at the uppermost heaven, or the 7th heaven).  These were included to serve as some narration to the events of the Mi’raj, but also to show the station of these Prophets with Allah.

On the left, separated from the rest and in a different color, we see Muhammad’s name in Arabic.  This is to show that Muhammad is indeed the final Prophet and the deliverer of the Quran, and is perhaps the most important for many Muslims.

Week 5: The Battle of Karbala

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Medium: Acrylic Paint and Canvas

This painting represents Imam Husayn’s martyrdom in the Battle of Karbala.  The Battle of Karbala occurred in 680 CE, or in the Islamic calendar on the 10th of Muharram and was between a small group of supporters sided with Prophet Muhammad’s grandson (Husayn) and a larger military force representing Yazid I of the Umayyad caliphate.  Background into the battle and why it occurred will not be explored in detail (for more information see the Wikipedia link below).

The red of the painting symbolizes the bloody nature of the conflict.  A few of Husayn’s men were against many in the opposition.  The uneven nature of the battle, one can even call it the unfairness of the battle, are represented with wild brushstrokes littering the battlefield.  The only figural object in the painting is the horse of Husayn.  The whiteness of the horse symbolizes the purity of Husayn and the other martyrs, and also represents the majesty (or the station) of Husayn and his family.  The horse, called Zuljanah, said to have killed 60 enemies of Husayn on its own and bequeathed to him by Prophet Muhammad, becomes a symbol of Husayn’s connection with the Prophet and Allah himself.  In that sense, it is fitting that it was the only remnant of Husayn after the battle.

Husayn’s name was written (poorly) in calligraphy in yellow paint.  Yellow paint was chosen to represent his illumination or enlightenment.  This draws from the concept of the Nur of Muhammad, said to be passed along the lines of Imams.

We see Allah represented in this painting as well.  Allah (written in white paint) is in the heavens (represented by the black) watching over the scene at Karbala.  Allah is aware of the scene, and Husayn’s role in the conflict, but does not do anything to prevent it from happening.  Rather, he leaves a way for Husayn’s legacy to continue (represented by the presence of Zuljanah).  This was meant to show that Allah rewards the righteous in the next life and that only those who are righteous suffer in this life.  It was also meant to show that Allah always leaves guidance, as per Shia belief.  These are core tenants of Shia theology that were influenced heavily by the Battle of Karbala.

Link for more information:
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_K…

 

Week 4: Maulud Poetry

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Medium: Poetry/Word

Oh my Beloved, oh my Prophet!  I am like a moth that gravitates towards the light that embodies you.

Being so close to you, yet so far away I long to annihilate my being in your flame so that I can end this pain of separation.

Oh traveler of the Heavens, oh confidant of the Divine.  My life is meaningless without your presence.

Sleepless nights and worried days consume me; thoughts of your absence are too much to bear.

Oh intercessor, my connection with Allah!  Let your flames consume my body as they have my mind!

Oh Allah!  Oh Compassionate One!  Please give me the strength to make my last breath the name of my prince, my darling Muhammad.

Explanation: 

In this poem, I try to copy the structure of the mauluds that we read in Professor Asani’s translations of various mauluds in the Week 4 readings.  I tried to keep my work in the range of five to ten lines, as this seemed to be the norm.  In this particular work, I try to speak in the voice of a virahini, or a lover of the Prophet who longs to be with him.  I particularly reference several elements of the Prophet that we have discussed in class and that have been introduced in the readings.  The first is a reference to the Prophet as Light, derived from my interpretation of Surat An-Nur.  I express a longing for this Light, like a moth that gravitates towards a flame.  Being consumed by the flame represents losing myself to the Light of the Prophet, or the Nur an-Nabi.  Being consumed by the flames also represents an abolishment of the ego, or my sense of self.  Once the flames consume me I am no longer a moth, but a part of the flame itself.  In this sense, I hope to use the example of the Prophet, or the al-Insan al-Kamil, to become pure like the Prophet and serve as a reflection of Allah’s majesty.  I depict a deep love for the Prophet, a longing one could say, because I recognize him as an intercessor, or as a tie to both the seven heavens shown in the Mi’raj and to those who follow his message.  I wish nothing but to have thoughts of Prophet Muhammad fill my thoughts, because as the al-Insan al Kamil this would imply that my thoughts are pure.  Finally, I end with a plea from the Almighty to fill my thoughts until my last breath with Muhammad so that hopefully he will recognize my devotion towards him and will intercede on my behalf.

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