Saraf Nawar's blog

May 9, 2014

Introductory Essay: Prologue to Creative Responses

Filed under: Uncategorized — snawar @ 10:15 pm

Saraf blog introductory essay

please click the above link for a pdf of my introductory essay/prologue to blog posts (a cleaner looking version)

 

Introductory Essay for Blog Entries

         In today’s world, given the turmoil that sometimes seems to be caused by religious differences, it is easy to see each religion as a monolithic entity existing separate from other religions, and thus representing starkly polar worldviews. Often, such notions arise as a result of not utilizing a cultural studies approach towards studying religion, which is arguably the best approach for understanding the role of religion in one’s daily life. The cultural studies approach, which examines the particular context in which one interprets his or her religion, is particularly important when it comes to understanding religions like Islam, whose adherents come from vastly different backgrounds. Through the cultural studies approach, which is arguably much more interdisciplinary than the textual approach, we see that one’s interpretation of religion is strongly influenced by factors including social, political, educational, and economic aspects of life, as well as one’s particular historical backdrop; this then makes the arts and literature a unique window by which we can observe a particular culture’s comprehension of the religion (Infidel of Love 10). These creative responses thus are my own response to my understanding of Islam, and intertwined in these works, then, are not only lessons from the classroom, but my own personal experiences, which have themselves been shaped by the economic, social and cultural backdrop in which I have grown up.

Asides from the different cultural backdrops in which one can interpret Islam, it is also crucial to understand the fundamental divisions that have persisted in Islam, from Sufism, Shi’a, to Sunni groups. Understanding these different communities of interpretation is thus crucial for comprehending Islam as a whole. For example, we have learned in class the centrality of the figures of Ali, Hussain, and Hassan in the Shi’a cosmology. This is manifested through the Shi’a tradition of the Ta’ziyeh, a passion play commemorating Imam Hussein and his family’s suffering at the hands of the Sunni caliphs. However, the Ta’ziyeh is certainly more than a ‘play’ as we define it in the Western tradition: simple and bare in its execution, the Ta’ziyeh is a metaphor for one’s worldly suffering, and has religious significance for participants, tying into the idea of Hussein’s role as intercessor in the Shi’a tradition (Chelkowski 2). The oppression of Shi’ites by Sunnis has certainly been an important theme in Islamic history, and I have attempted to address this in one of my creative responses, in which I have done a watercolor painting representing the important role that Imam Hussein plays for Shi’ites by depicting him as the setting sun. Thus, I have attempted to portray both the majestic nature of Imam Hussain while also illustrating his terrible fate, which has strong significance for the Shi’a. While the intercessory role played by Hussein and the controversies surrounding this is a manifestation of a main point of contention between the two primary communities of interpretation in Islam (that is, the Sunni and the Shi’a), it is important to remember that many other communities of interpretation exist even within these two main branches. Again, this ties back to the central theme of this class: the interpretation of Islam is just as diverse as its followers.

Despite the vastly different backgrounds that Muslims around the world come from, all Muslims share basic tenets, which include the Shahadah and the Five Pillars, which includes zakat, or the giving of alms. These pillars, while certainly not explicitly stated as such in the Qur’an, are an example of ritualization of religious practices, and foster for many Muslims around the world a strong sense of community (The Pillars of Islam lecture). The zakat is significant for its goal of fostering social justice, which is an important aim in Islam, by awakening in Muslims a spirit of social responsibility (The Pillars of Islam lecture). The issue of social justice in Muslim countries thus something I find particularly fascinating, and have attempted to highlight in my creative response in the form of a free verse poem, in which the speaker of the poem, who himself is a Muslim, forms a “complaint,” much like Muhammad Iqbal in Complaint and Answer to Allah inquiring about the impoverished state of many Muslims. In my work, I “ask” Allah why despite their devotion to Allah through ritual, some Muslims are not blessed with wealth and seem to never be able to escape poverty, while others live lavishly. Thus, I have also attempted to raise the question of what it means to have faith.

However, any discussion of Islam and its themes in modern society would be incomplete without discussing the central role of Allah and Prophet Muhammad. Certainly, the role of Allah as creator in Islam is one that all Muslims, regardless of their understanding of Islam, adhere to strongly; we see this strongly manifested in the 99 names given to Allah, amongst which are ones such as al-Muhyi (Giver of Life) and al-Mawla (Master) (Handout Week 4: The Qur’an on the Attributes of Muhammad and the Names of God). As a faithful Muslim, then, one must find in every semblance of creation a sign of Allah, and one example of this is the calligraphy of “Allah” that takes on many shapes and forms. As such, I have included in one of my creative responses a collage of “Allah” calligraphy constructed using the elements of the periodic table. As a student of chemistry, I find beauty in the organization of the universe through molecular bonds between atoms of various elements; as a Muslim, I see the diversity of elements and their unique organization into the periodic table as a manifestation of Allah. However, any discussion of Allah in Islam would be incomplete without discussing the role of Prophet Muhammad in a Muslim’s life. For Muslims the Prophet Muhammad’s life is a paradigm by which to live, and as such, one carefully studies the Hadith, which are known to contain many of his teachings. Muhammad shares many of the traits exemplified by the 99 names of Allah (Handout Week 4: The Qur’an on the Attributes of Muhammad and the Names of God), and in much of the literary and artistic responses seen around the Islamic world, the love for Muhammad is beautifully expressed. A particularly captivating example of this was in Sindhi poems, and their use the idea of viraha, so that Prophet Muhammad is represented as a beloved with whom his lover, usually a young woman, longs to reunite with (Asani 161). As such, in my creative response, I have illustrated how such a young virahini be, looking out at the moonlit sky for a sign of Prophet Muhammad, with whom she longs to reunite, and thus, end her separation from the divine.

An important theme that we have discussed in class is that of women in Islam, and much of the discussion has centered on one item of clothing, the hijab. The theme of the hijab is well explored in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. The hijab has played a key role in debates surrounding various reform movements, ranging from imitative to Islamist, so that while the former attempts to embrace Western culture by making obsolete what is perceived as antiquated Islamic symbols, such as the hijab, the latter sees Islam as a means to create a nation state (Reform Revival Iran Lecture). The hijab, however, has become today a contentious issue for Muslims in both predominantly Muslim countries and in Western countries, such as the United States. For example, in westernized countries, women wearing the hijab are seen as symbolizing everything that is un-Western, and for us here in the U.S., perhaps ‘un-American.’ Some thus see the hijab as a manifestation of Islam’s oppression against the female gender. However, what we have learned from class is that the hijab, for Muslim women, is a means of expression not only of their religious beliefs, but also of their identity. Because of the importance of the hijab as a means of interpreting the Muslim identity in the modern world, I have focused two of my creative responses on the matter. One is a comic strip modeled after Satrapi’s Persepolis focused on a fictional hijab-wearing Muslim girl in the U.S. who feels that her identity as an American is overlooked due to her head covering. While she feels American, she and her family are labeled as “terrorists” because of their religion. The other piece is a collage, where I have shown a female Muslim New Yorker, who to an ordinary person, may appear to be just another Muslim woman, but in reality, is just as New Yorker, and American as anyone else. The latter fact, to some observers, may be obscured by her hijab, which is what I wished to convey. However, through the images in the hijab collage, I wanted to illustrate that her identity is constructed of far more than just her religion, and includes such things as sports, music, and fashion, to name a few.

Furthermore, we learn from our various readings, particularly Rokeya Hossain’s “Sultana’s Dream,” that the oppression of women is not always a result of religious standing, but often a result of a combination of factors, which include both prevailing cultural and political beliefs. In fact, as explained in class, Islam in many ways “liberates” women, with the Qur’an stating the equality of believers, regardless of gender, and with women playing a key role in the early history of Islam (Gender and Islam lecture). Yet, as Hossain’s short story seemed to suggest, it is still important to carefully examine and question the rights of women in such countries, and to take an active role in assuring that one’s rights are not usurped because of one’s gender, whatever the justification may be, such as religion. Again, we can go back to the idea of communities of interpretation when it comes to the role of women in Islam; whereas some have interpreted the Qur’an in its strictest readings as a way to oppress women, today, many Muslim women have interpreted the Qur’an as a means of regaining their rights, thus finding their needed solace. A particularly important figure espousing the latter interpretation of the Qur’an is Amina Wadud Muhsin, who believes that much of the oppression of women in Islam is a consequence of patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’an; however, by using the parts of the Qur’an that clearly speak for the equal rights of genders, she believes that it is possible for women to utilize the Qur’an to stop their oppression (Gender and Islam lecture).

Overall, I hope one finds these creative responses informative, and hopefully, at least somewhat entertaining. These responses themselves are my own interpretation of Islam, and in it, I have attempted to convey the diverse spectrum of beliefs found in Islam itself, as well as the plight of Muslims in the modern world. For a Muslim, clearly his identity as a follower of the Islamic faith is important, but certainly, his identity is equally carved by his own life experiences, and amongst these are one’s culture and history. One’s identity is also a product of one’s passions, and through the literature and arts, one can show not only one’s love for Allah and Prophet Muhammad, but also express themselves, just as I have done in my creative responses in this blog.

          Works Cited

Asani, Ali. Infidel of Love: Exploring Muslim Understandings of Islam. Harvard University     Press, 2013.

Asani, Ali. “In Praise of Muhammad: Sindhi and Urdu Poems.” Religions of India in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Asani, Ali. Lecture: Gender and Islam. Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 54.

Asani, Ali. Lecture: Pillars of Islam. Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 54.

Asani, Ali. Lecture: Reform Revival Iran. Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 54.

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

Handout Week 4: The Qur’an on the Attributes of Muhammad and the Names of God.

Hussain, Rokeya Shakhawat. Sultana’s Dream and Selections from The Secluded Ones. New York: Feminist Press, 1998.

Iqbal, Mohammad. “Complaint and Answer.” Trans. by A.J. Arberry.

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. New York: Pantheon, 2003.

 

 

May 6, 2014

The Hijabi Life: Creative Response for Week 12

Filed under: Uncategorized — snawar @ 5:36 am

20140503_125243

 

Medium: comic (pen/ink on paper)

This week, reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrap, I was highly captivated by just how effective a medium such as a graphic novel could be in conveying an emotionally and politically charged story. I have to admit, part of the reason I was especially enthralled by this piece was because I was a great fan of graphic novels growing up (especially of manga). However, what made Persepolis special was the way in which it portrayed the many ways that the Iranian Revolution affected the lives of those living in Iran, especially that of women. In class this week, the role of women in Islam has been discussed extensively, and in particular, the idea that often, the attitudes toward women in Islamic countries is comes not always from religious ideals, but from cultural practices. Clearly, the Iranian Revolution had a tremendous impact on women, as the previously ‘Western’ Iranian society was shunned, and a turn to a more conservative interpretation of Islam was embraced.

 

For this week’s creative response, I thus decided to use comic strip to convey today’s notions of Islam, particularly in western countries, such as the U.S. Thus, following the style of Satrap’s Persepolis (both her style of drawing and characterization), I decided to create a fictional character named Maryam Hussain from Iran living in Boston, MA. The storyline I wanted to convey is that of a young girl coming from a Muslim country who is at heart “American” but because she and her mother wears a hijab, they are often seen as outsiders by many people. Obviously, the events portrayed in this comic strip are fictional, but I’m sure similar situations apply to many Muslim families in America where the women wear hijabs, and as such, when they live in communities where the Muslim population is sparse, they are often treated as outsiders. I felt that this connected well with the reading for this week, in that whereas wearing a hijab in Iranian society in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution was a way to blend in (and not suffer the consequences), wearing a hijab in many ways can lead to the opposite scenario in western countries, since those donning a hijab are considered to be anti-Western, and hence, has the opposite of making one ‘blend in.’

 

References:

Persepolis by Marjane Satrap

A Poem for Allah: Creative Response for Week 11

Filed under: Uncategorized — snawar @ 12:54 am

Slide1

Medium: poetry

In this week’s creative response, following the example of Muhammad Iqbal’s poem “Complaint and Answer,” I wanted to also write my own poem ‘addressing’ God. I found Iqbal’s poem to be extremely fascinating, as it ruminates heavily on the current conditions of Muslims in the world in him time, directly questioning God as to why Muslims, despite their strong devotion to Allah through prayer and other acts of devotion and faith, do not have as much ‘success’ as non-Muslims. He feels as if non-Muslims, despite not having sacrificed themselves at all for Allah, have earned his blessings, as evidenced by their worldly possessions. In doing so, the speaker in “Complaint” cites the many acts of courage performed by Muslims in the name of Allah, contrasting it to the complete lack of devotion seen in non-Muslims, and feels dismay at how “Only on the hapless Muslims falls the / lightning of Thy rage.” This work thus begs the question (which is largely addressed in the “Answer”) whether or not prayer and other rituals are really sufficient for being a good Muslim, and makes us ponder what faith really means.

Thus, in this week’s creative response, I decided to write a freeform/free verse poem similar to “Complaint and Answer” by Iqbal, although I decided to only do a ‘complaint.’ In my poem, titled “A Muslim’s Complaint: Prayer and Prosperity,” instead of asking Allah why it is non-Muslims of the world enjoyed so much fortune, I instead ask Allah why it is some Muslims enjoy so much fortune, while others live in poverty. I decided to frame the poem this way because in many Muslim countries, the divide between the rich and the poor is extremely wide, to the extent that social mobility is nearly impossible. For example, in some Muslim countries, poverty levels are still high, while some Muslim nations today are enjoying massive growth and development. As such, the speaker in my poem asks why he/she, despite being a devout Muslim, as evidenced through his engagement with the Qur’an, prayer, and other acts of devotion, cannot seem to have the same worldly goods as others. As such, in many ways, my poem questions the lack of social equality seen in many Muslim countries. Perhaps the “answer” here is that worldly goods, such as wealth and material possessions, are not really the true markers of success and fortune.

Here is the text of the poem:

A Muslim’s Complaint: Prayer and Prosperity

Oh, Allah! Each morning as I wake

I utter “Alhamdullillah” as I am grateful to thee

As the dawn unfolds and I pray my fajr

And as I taste my mother’s naan I say

Bismillahirrahmanirraheem

For I know that you are the Giver of all I have, plain and elegant

Yet, despite my devotion, an uneasy thought lingers in my head:

Oh, why, Allah, are some Muslims so blessed with riches,

While other Muslims, like myself, seem to always be in rags?

I see the oil magnates in Qatar bathing in money

While the beggar in Islamabad dies of thirst

Are we not all Muslims?

Do we not all pray five times a day?

And fast during Ramadan, even during long summer days?

Don’t our wives and daughters all cover their luscious hair?

Venerate Mohummad, peace be upon him, as the best of man?

And do we not all read the same Qur’an?

Face the same Ka’aba?

Oh, why then, Allah, should some Muslims be paupers

While others are live as princes, who give little regard

To the beggar waiting outside his marble palace gates?

Alas, Allah, I ask you, why thou has given

So much to some

But so little to others

If they are all Muslims

Who pray five times a day

Cover our locks

Venerate the same Muhammad

Fast during Ramadan

Read the same Qur’an

And face the same Ka’aba

 References:

“Complaint and Answer” by Muhammad Iqbal (class readings)

background image for poem: <http://nature.desktopnexus.com/get/1463887/?t=7ipf28mqkkv8k4lin9hk4ntkv753653902f1b26>

May 3, 2014

Is she a Muslim or a New Yorker? Creative Response for Week 13

Filed under: Uncategorized — snawar @ 9:01 pm

american muslim woman

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 6.56.37 PM

Medium: collage, pen on paper

This week, we read the extremely powerful novel, Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. Taking place right after the September 11th attacks, the novel makes us question what really constitutes one’s identity: is one a product of one’s religion or of one’s culture? What really struck me about the novel was just how quickly the main character, Changez, becomes in the American view, a “fundamentalist” because of his new beliefs. These beliefs are not actually a product of Changez’s religious convictions, but because of the sense of identification he feels with his Pakistani origin. This happens while he sheds much of his present identity – that of a rising New Yorker about to enter the cream of metropolitan society. Thus, as Changez becomes more Pakistani, returning to his “roots,” he becomes, in the eyes of both himself and his acquaintances, less and less American.

After the September 11th attacks, Islamic “markers” that Muslims displayed became targets for attack. For example, for Changez, the fact that he has grown a beard after coming back from Pakistan makes much of his colleagues in Samson and Underwood uncomfortable. For many women after September 11th, the hijab became a symbol of the “otherness.” We’ve discussed in class the many reasons women wear a hijab, and often, it is not necessarily for purely religious reasons, but as a means of expressing one’s identity. Thus, in my drawing, I show a woman wearing a hijab, but what I have included in the hijab is a collage of images that a typical New Yorker (and the average American) can identify with. Thus, the hijab has images of “I love New York” (which is printed on many items donned by New Yorkers), the Yankees logo, the statue of liberty, as well as a picture of New York skyscrapers. As such, what I wanted to convey in this image was that although in many ways, to the ordinary observer, this woman as “hid” herself behind a veil, she in fact identifies herself as a New Yorker just as anyone else would, and is also as much American (as shown by the American flag) as they are.

Furthermore, I believe that an important point that the book Reluctant Fundamentalist makes is that one is never just Muslim, but really a product of one’s individual life experiences. In other words, religion isn’t the only thing that shapes us, and as such, in this picture, I have included images of things like a guitar, a soccer ball, and a picture of Superwoman to hint at the personality and hobbies of this young woman. While she may appear to some as just a Muslim woman, she could easily be an artistic, athletic, and a strong woman at the same time.

 

References

 Hamid, Mohsin. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Orlando: Harcourt, 2007.

Websites for pictures used in the hijab collage:

American flag:http://www.franciscanmissionaries.com/current-event/election-prayer-2/attachment/waving-american-flag-graphics-4-1/

New york city skyscrapers: http://mashable.com/2013/07/02/nyc-domain/

I love NY: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:I_Love_New_York.svg

NY Yankees logo: http://lostpedia.wikia.com/wiki/New_York_Yankees

American Eagle logo: http://theitfactorproductions.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/American_Eagle_Outfitters_logo.gif

Superwoman: http://highbrowmagazine.com/epic-journey-away-super-woman

Soccer ball: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Soccer_ball.svg

Guitar: http://www.world-of-songwriting.com/recording-electric-guitar.html

Statue of Liberty: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/201…

March 23, 2014

Loving Every Atom of Allah’s Creations: Creative Response for Week 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — snawar @ 2:27 pm

 

Medium: collage

This week, in chapter 2 of Prof. Asani’s text, we learned about the four ideals that Muslims consider to be fundamental tenet of their faith, including social justice, compassion, jihad, and importantly, loving God (Asani 58). While recent events have brought into light some of the negative ways in which Islam can be interpreted as justification for malicious acts, it is important to understand that Muslims strongly believe in the connectedness of individual human beings, regardless of their background. Thus, the diversity of the world itself is a creation of Allah, who not only created the heavens, but all of the different types of people on Earth. As Prof. Asani mentions in his book, the “essential unity of creation” is a core belief in Islam. In an essence, all creation is credited to Allah, and as such, deserves the utmost kindness and benevolence.

Furthermore, as Muslims, one must love God beyond anything else, and in many pieces of Islamic literature, love of God is expressed through the love of God’s creations. One particular poet who was particularly adept at expressing this love was Rumi, who believed that there was “a cosmic force that [bound] every created thing to God” (76) so that for him, “[every] atom not only contains this love, but is also a symbolic manifestation of it” (77).

In this regard, I have chosen to write out “Allah” using elements from the periodic table of elements. Atoms and molecules have always fascinated me, and given the title of “Creator” conferred onto Allah in Islamic tradition, every single element in the periodic table itself is a testament to Allah. Some of these elements have been present since the beginning of the creation of the universe, and as time passed, atoms of essential elements combined with each other in specific ratios to form compounds, which are themselves a manifestation of the diverse creations of Allah. Everything in the world around is made of elements, and as Muslims, then, it is important to respect creations both living and nonliving. Notice that in the background, I have four elements repeating: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. These elements are crucial for life on Earth, with the former three making up the bulk of organic compounds and of course, us human beings. As such, this creative response expresses how we as humans, despite our outward difference, are made from the same fundamental building blocks, and as such, it is our duty to respect each other and follow the path of peace.

References

A. Asani, Infidel of Love: Exploring Muslim Understandings of Islam, Chapter 2.

Periodic table cutouts used in making collage:

http://chemistry.about.com/od/periodictable/ss/How-To-Use-A-Periodic-Table.htm

http://chemistry.about.com/od/periodictableelements/ss/Printable-Basic-Periodic-Table-Of-The-Elements.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World Mourns for Imam Hussain: Creative Response for Week 5

Filed under: Uncategorized — snawar @ 2:16 pm

 

Medium: watercolor

In this week’s readings, the Persian passion play of the Taziyeh, which mourns the martyrdom of Imam Hussain in Karbala at the hands of the Ummayad caliph, particularly captivated me. What I found most fascinating about the Taziyeh, particularly in the reading by Peter Chelkowski, “Taziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran,” is the degree to which the audience is engaged to the performance, which to them, of course, is not merely a performance, but really an emotional experience that transcends all meanings of time and space (Chelkowski). What is significant for those observing the Taziyeh is not the performance itself, but the universality of the suffering of Hussain that is portrayed by the “actors.” This is quite significant, since worldly defeat is a very important theme in the Shi’a tradition, seen as a necessary experience before entering the next world, as we learned in lecture.

I also found the reading by Sir Lewis Pelly, “The Miracle Play of Hasan and Hussein,” to be quite interesting, especially in its portrayal of Hussein’s heroism and the various titles and attributes that are assigned to him by those around him, especially his family. Zainab, his sister, for example, calls him “brave cavalier” (6), “perfect high priest of faith,” (92) as well as “moon-faced, glorious sun” (90), which I thought was significant as such “heavenly” symbols are widely associated with Allah himself.

As such in my creative response, I wanted to portray both reverence for Hussein as well as the sorrow surrounding his fall, particularly using the metaphor of Imam Hussain as the “glorious sun,” signifying his greatness and majesty for life on Earth. In my painting, I have thus portrayed the idea of Imam Hussain as the “sun.” In particular, in my watercolor painting, the sun has “Hussain” written in Arabic on it, and the fact that the sun is setting (rather than rising), symbolizes his worldly defeat. However, the world and everything around it mourns for Imam Hussain and his tragic end, so that we see blood flowing in the river from the direction of the sun, and the originally blue waters turning purple, also grieving the loss of the worldly guide at the hands of “evil.” However, on the top left of the painting, we see the crescent moon, with stars around it, thus signifying both the light of Allah and that of Prophet Muhammad. This signifies the continued prevalence of Islam and its values despite the loss of a great leader.

References

 “The Miracle Play of Hasan and Husein” by Sir Lewis Pelly

 Chelkowski, P. Taziyeh: Ritual Drama in Iran, 1-31.

Waiting for Muhammad: Creative Response for Week 4

Filed under: Uncategorized — snawar @ 2:12 pm

 

Medium: colored pencil on paper

       As evidenced by the Shahadah, in which Muslims must proclaim not only their admission of one God, but also the fact that Muhammad is His prophet, clearly, veneration of Prophet Muhammad is a core element of Islam. Art and literature are used profusely to express the love that Muslims feel for their foremost prophet. Afterall, Muhammad has many roles and titles in Islam, some of which are shared with Allah himself, such as the idea of Nur Muhammad, or the “light of Muhammad.” Respect for Muhammad and emulation of his lifestyle, which is seen by Muslims as a form of worship in itself. Whether or not we are dealing with art or literature, however, the mode of reverence for Muhammad is highly tied to one’s cultural context, so that one’s surroundings (in both time and place) highly influence the ways in which one understands and expresses his or her relationship to Muhammad.

In particular, I was highly captivated reading Prof. Asani’s piece, “In Praise of Muhammad: Sindhi and Urdu Poems” in Religions of India in Practice. What was particularly fascinating for me was the Sindhi poems, which are from a region that is now Pakistan (Asani 160). Their poems illustrate the important role that local traditions play in Islamic artistic expression. As such, I have decided to illustrate my own interpretation of a scene from a Sindhi poem, in particular, that of the virahini. The virahini is a particularly significant symbol in Sindhi poetry venerating Muhammad. Virahini is a young woman who has been separated from her lover or husband, and is a widely used literary symbol used in South Asian literature, so that viraha means “longing in separation” (Asani 161).

Just as a young woman would wait for her lover (as Juliet would wait for Romeo, for example), here, the virahini, portrayed in South Asian garb of salwar kameez, leans on her balcony, staring out at the night sky. The night sky is filled with stars and the moon, which have become symbolic of Islam. However, similar to the heroine in the Sindhi poem who greatly desires to be reunited to Prophet Muhammad, the woman here longs for Muhammad, and staring out into the sky, she thinks of him and his many qualities, including his role as the guide and intercessor, and of course, as her “beloved.” As such, in my drawing, in the sky, I have not only drawn in stars, but alongside them, the names used to refer to Prophet Muhammad in the Sindhi poems, including “Prince,” “Bridegroom,” and “Master.” In the top center of the drawing, I have written out Muhammad in Arabic. The variety of names and titles referring to Muhammad interspersed in the sky are a testament to the diverse ways in which Muslims attempt to comprehend Muhammad and his role.

References

 A. Asani, “In Praise of Muhammad: Sindhi and Urdu Poems,” Religions of India in Practice, 159-186.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 22, 2014

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Filed under: Uncategorized — snawar @ 2:53 am

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