Creative Project 3 – Tears For Karbala Recitation: A commemoratory narration of the aftermath of the Karbala Massacre (Week 5)

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https://youtu.be/pJYN5ZEbKP8

The massacre of the Prophet Muhammad’s family in Karbala is the primary historical event of Shia Islam that continues to define and influence its values. As we learned in lecture, the massacre in Karbala resulted in the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and his 72 companions against the powerful Umayyad army of Yazid (“Postprophetic Authority 1 Shii Imams ⅓ Oct” Lecture Powerpoint). Essentially, the events at Karbala was the battle of two perpetually competing forces: “good and evil” (“Postprophetic Authority 1 Shii Imams ⅓ Oct” Lecture Powerpoint). Imam Hussein’s sacrificial resistance to the corrupt Umayyad power system represents the fundamental human value of social justice–that people should fight for the side of righteousness and virtue, no matter the worldly cost. Because this event took place on the 10th, or ashr, of the Islamic month, Muharram, the Karbala massacre is recognized as Ashura. Approximately 1400 years later, Muslims around the world continue to commemorate Ashura annually during the first 10 days of Muharram and 40 days after (the 40th day is called the Arbaeen). Throughout this period, Muslims commemorate the martyrdom and persecution of Prophet Muhammad’s family by performing several aesthetic practices. Among these are supplications known as ziyarat and devotional melodies known as latmiyat. In section, we examined other practices, including films and plays recreating the massacre, such as the Iranian Ta’ziyah (Chelkowski 1).

During the initial ten days of Muharram, one of the Shia organizations in Dearborn, Michigan host a series of immersive Ashura programs. Among many other facets, the programs include quran recitation, poetry, narrational tributes to Karbala, latmiyats (devotional songs for ahlul bayt), and of course, a religious lecture related to the significance of Ashura. These narrational tributes, otherwise known as “Tears For Karbala,” are nightly segments that give a detailed, multi-perspective depiction of Ashura; every night focuses on a particular martyr’s final scene or the family members of Imam Hussein who did not participate in the Battle. In this way, “Tears of Karbala” gives a holistic portrayal of Ashura and often initiates the flow of emotion within the audience during these nightly programs.

In my uploaded video, I am seen reciting the final scene of “Tears For Karbala” for a Ashura Program back in my home city, Dearborn. In this scene, I describe the aftermath of the Massacre, while focusing on Sayida Zainab’s perseverance, as she will have “many sleepless nights” assuming responsibility for the remaining family of Hussain. Like Imam Hussain, Sayida Zainab’s renown statement, ”I see nothing but beauty,” (Section Discussion Week 5) in response to Yazid’s tormenting reference to the Karbala Massacre ultimately demonstrated her enduring resistance against injustice—a theme so powerful that it resonates heavily in contemporary Shia ideology. 

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Creative Project 2 – The Recitation Styles of Ayat al-Kursi (Week 2)

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The Quran is undoubtedly the most important religious text in Islam. Muslims around the world approach the Quran with ultimate reverence and associate it with extraordinary beauty. All aspects of the Quran, including its meaning, calligraphic design, and sound contribute to the aestheticism of the scripture. In this piece, I focus primarily on the sound of the Quran and how different performance styles reflect the diversity in Islamic culture.

As we discussed in lecture, within the Islamic world, it is important to distinguish sound art from music (“The Quran: God’s Word and the Arts of Recitation” Lecture Powerpoint). Although Quranic performances typically resemble musical notes, Muslims categorize them as sound art, which has less of a secular connotation. Hence, Quran performers are known as reciters rather than singers.

For this project, I focus on a well-known Quranic verse, Ayat al-Kursi, in two main styles of recitation: murattal and mujawwad. Similar to surat al-Fatiha, Ayat al-Kursi is a memorable Quranic verse and is revisited by many Muslims on a daily basis. Known in English as the Throne Verse, Ayat al-Kursi is valued for its detailed description of Allah. As we learned in lecture, many of the ninety-nine names of Allah contradict each other; this of course is inevitable because the names are essentially a worldly attempt of defining the indescribable Divine. Because Ayat al-Kursi is a Quranic verse, in which Allah directly describes Himself, it is invaluable for Muslims seeking to develop a greater, authentic understanding of the Divine (“Fundamental Concepts (cont) 10 Sep” Lecture Powerpoint).

In Sound 1 of my uploaded file, I began by reciting Ayat al-Kursi in a beginner level murattal style.  This performance method focuses on the correct pronunciation and articulation of Quranic verses. The term, murattal, derives from the Arabic word, tartil, or “measure[ment]” (Sells 25). In this way, murattal is a universal form of recitation because its emphasis on clarity helps Muslims around the world understand the Arabic verses more easily.

In Sound 2, I recited the verse in a beginner level mujawwad style. This form of recitation focuses on the melodic performance of Quranic verses and typically varies by the reciter. Mujawwad derives from the Arabic word, tajwid, which literally translates to “embellish[ment]” (Sells 25). Similar to the murattal performance, the mujawwad recitation is controlled by traditional Quranic pronunciation rules. However, it places a much greater emphasis on individual style. By personalizing the sound of religious scripture, mujawwad recitation allows reciters to internalize the Quran and relay its message through aestheticism. Indeed, mujawwad performances emphasize the beautiful sound of the Quran and produce a “fascinating thrill…in the hearts and ears of its listeners,”–one that is so powerful it continues to attract new Muslims towards Islam (Kermani 44).

Although the aesthetic sound of the Quranic verse is sufficient to capture its beauty and significance, it is nonetheless important to understand its meaning. Therefore, in Sound 3, I have included an English translation of Ayat al-Kursi.

Creative Project 1- The Prophetic Revelation Through Jibrail’s Lens (Week 1)

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The First of the Last Revelation 

I am the gateway between the physical and metaphysical.

I have been sent down to this world several times to formally assign a leader for humankind. One who will connect humans with their Creator.

prophet.

By providing assistance to their revelations, I have helped guide the hundreds of thousands of prophets in different regions throughout history. While humankind clings to the legacies of these leaders, I am here today to send down one final prophetic revelation.

That revelation is Islam, and its prophet is Muhammad.

It is a chilly, serene night. The winds are cool and calm. I wait outside an elevated, enclosed space near the holy city of Mecca. Jabal an-Nour, 610 c.e.

I was thoroughly prepared for the events to come. He said it will change the course of mankind’s previous notion of spiritual transcendence. Of what it means to truly be muslim in this world. Verily, my Master is All-Knowing.

When I enter the cave, I am greeted by an influx of humility and virtuousness. He has been awaiting my presence. And so I begin by revealing to him the Divine message:

 

“O Muhammad! Read. 

Read in the Name of your Lord Who created, 

Created man from clots.

Read: And your Lord is The Most Honorable,

Who taught by the pen.

He taught man what he did not know…”

 

Indeed, he is receptive and embraces revelation. On this night, Muhammad has conveyed the most precious message, and soon he will relay it to the rest of the world: the Quran. All Glory to my Master, for He has chosen the perfect prophet to guide His followers toward Him!

 

I began with Adam.

 

I helped foster the prophecies of thousands more.

Abraham.

Moses.

Noah.

Jesus.

 

I now conclude with Muhammad.

 

There is no better candidate to end the lineage of the prophecy. He will carry the Quran of Allah and become the Messenger of Islam.

 

On this night and hereon after, Muhammad will guide mankind.

 

On this night and hereon after, Muhammad will guide mankind.

 

On this night and hereon after, Muhammad will guide mankind.

 

-Archangel Jibrail 

In the beginning of Islam, Allah sent Archangel Jibrail to deliver the first revelation to Muhammad. Through this Divine encounter, Muhammad was officially recognized as the final prophet among thousands who previously guided believers towards the path of Allah (Sells 5). Hence, the first revelation of the Prophet Muhammad is widely cherished throughout the Islamic world. Not only did this event initiate the development of Islam, but it simultaneously marked the first time in which a Quranic verse was released to the Prophet. Unlike previous Abrahamic texts, the Islamic scripture came from one, supreme source: Allah. Over the span of roughly 20 years, this scripture was released to the world through prophetic revelations.

In lecture, we learned that because the Quran was revealed in segments over a long period, quranization, or act of codifying the Quran, was a relatively delayed process. The Quran addresses the supposed inauthenticity of fragmented revelations by “suggest[ing] that human beings are not able to bear all the truth at once” (Sells 3). Nonetheless, the absence of written scripture by no means stunted the growth of Islam; in fact, it substantially contributed to the development of the religion, as people were attracted to the “Quranic experience” (“Fundamental Concepts 5 Sep” Lecture Powerpoint). Indeed, the notion of “experiencing” the Quran began with the Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation, when he was instructed to recite Surat al-Alaq.

To emphasize its historical significance, I wrote a journal entry through the perspective of the angel who played a major role in this revelation: Jibrail. By relaying the Divine message to Muhammad, Jibrail anticipates the destined global impact of his prophecy as the representative of Allah’s final message: Islam. The Prophet’s collection of Quranic ensured that he could provide his followers with an authentic “divine-human relationship” (Sells 3). In this way, Muslims who experienced the Quran simultaneously experienced Allah.  Additionally, the Prophet’s internalization of the Quran effectively appealed to all types of people; because literacy was not a necessary factor to experience the Quran, the inclusivity of Islam is what allowed the religion to flourish under Muhammad’s guidance, who became known as the “Walking Quran” (“Quran as recited word, 10/12 Sep” Lecture Powerpoint). As the Prophet Muhammad’s first revelation fostered the spread and development of Islam, it essentially gave rise to the wide-scale diversity of Muslims (varying in race, ethnicity, and culture) who shape the religion today.

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