Silent vs. Loud Islam


I found the distinction between a silent and loud Islam highly captivating, as it relates to many of the issues that have emerged over the course of South Asian history. I wanted to literally embody the contrast between these two ways of interpreting Islam using clay. The kneeling figure represents the silent Islam and the larger standing figure represents loud Islam. This concept of a silent Islam that we discussed during class relates back to Pinto’s “The Mystery of Nizamuddin Dargah” in which he highlights the inclusive essence of Sufism, specifically through one’s relationship with the pirs. The act of participating in Nizamuddin dargah and paying homage to the saint is a subjective experience open to all, even non-Muslims. The concept of universal love forms the basis of silent Islam. Eaton also alludes to how the concept of love is advocated through Sufi folk literature in “Sufi Folk Literature and the Expansion of Indian Islam”. The literature spread through Hindu rural villages, preaching themes of female love and for one to “feel comfort in God’s unity and majesty” (Eaton, 122). The incorporation of mystical zikrs in the literature attempted to connect the individual to God. This personal connection with God through faith makes up the notion of a silent Islam. Eaton emphasizes how both Hindus and Muslims have access to this experience.  The simple, personable messages of the literature do not require any doctrinal knowledge. Similarly, the dargahs were not limited to only those visitors with such doctrinal background. With the promotion of self-love, silent Islam has no ulterior social or political motives as with loud Islam, but merely has a desire to encourage believers to love themselves and grow from within. From this perspective, one can only understand something they believe in to the extent that they love it.

I tried to portray this loving relationship between God and Muslims by depicting silent Islam in contrast with loud Islam. Silent Islam is not built on the basis of power and politics, but solely on the basis of faith and personal love. In such a way, I represented silent Islam as a small figure, praying on its knees. I had the figure praying to portray the Muslim as a ‘believer’ of Islam, the religion. This Muslim of silent Islam experiences a transformation of the ego through their relationship with God. Not only Sufis, but Iqbal, preached this notion of evolving from within. Anyone can emulate this Islam, even the Hindus visiting dargah or the infidels described by Iqbal, who managed to transform themselves. For this reason, silent Islam is a broader conception of Islam that directly contrasts with the loud Islam. The loud Islam appropriately has a large head to depict the egoistic nature of this Muslim identity. This Islam is connected to various factions of authority and power. With that said, the figure stands on a multi-layered pedestal to demonstrate how this Islam is grounded on the social, political, economic, and state factors of society. This Islam is not seen as a religion, but rather as a conception of the state. Rather than playing the role of a ‘believer’, the Muslims of loud Islam are the ‘submitter’.

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