The Lock and the Chain

March 12th, 2018



Medium: Markers and Pen.

Week 3 Response: God’s Word as Sacred Sound and the Concept of Prophethood.

Title: The Chain and The Lock

The Prophet Muhammad being the “Seal of the Prophets,” the long line of Prophets stretching back to Adam, and the role that all Prophet’s played in spreading God’s word on earth were all major themes of the third week’s lecture.

The concept of Prophethood was a central theme of the third week’s lecture. The Qur’an mentions, “Every nation has had a messenger.” 10:47, thereby establishing the importance of God’s messengers in propagating God’s teachings. Furthermore, several Qur’anic verses were mentioned during this week’s lecture that contained direct references to different Prophet’s as in the following example:

“Say: we believe in God and what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob and the tribes, and in what was given to Moses, Jesus and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one and another among them and to Him (God) do we submit (literally, we are submitters “muslims”)” Quran 8:34.

As well as discussing the various gifts of the various Prophets we also discussed another concept that is central to Islam, that of The Prophet Muhammad being the “Seal of The Prophets,” and the Qur’an as being a perfect manifestation of God’s message, and one that all the previous scriptures were leading up to.

We also learned about how the precious scriptures and teachings revealed to the Prophet’s before Muhammad are integral in gaining a complete understanding of the Qur’an. The Qur’anic verse that was cited in lecture and directly mentions this point is as follows:

“And if you (Muhammad) are in doubt concerning that which We (God) reveal to you, then question those who read the scripture (that was revealed) before you…” 10:94

Therefore, in this drawing, I’ve tried to incorporate all these elements by representing them through something we are all very familiar with: a lock and a chain.  The underlying theme behind this drawing is that the Prophet’s, starting from Adam and ending with Muhammad, were all like a chain and lead up to the lock, which in this case is God’s final message: the Qur’an.

I’ve tried to convey the theme of the interconnectedness of all the Prophets, their eventual goal of perfecting God’s message, a manifestation of which is the Quran, and the Prophet Muhammad being the last Prophet, and therefore the seal of the Prophet.

I’ve purposely left some gaps while writing down the names of the Prophet’s inside this chain. As the total number of Prophet’s sent down by God exceeds over one hundred thousand, I’ve only written down the names of some that were mentioned during lecture, and these gaps represent all those that I have not mentioned.

Also, the empty gaps signify another concept that Professor Asani mentioned during his lecture, primarily that there may yet be some Prophet’s that the Muslim world has not been able to identify, and therefore the void in the chain is also representative of the Prophets that still remain “unknown.”




The Many Forms of Islam

March 12th, 2018



Medium: Digitized Image/Calligraphy

Week 5 Response: Post-Prophetic authority, communities of interpretation, and Shi‘i Piety.

Title: The Many Forms of Islam

This course has particularly stressed the point that there is no monolithic way to practice or interpret Islam. From our talks of Sufiism to the different communities of interpretation within Islam, I have realized that the word Islam is all-inclusive and sometimes depends on the local context and tradition in which it is mentioned.

Daftary’s book, “Diversity In Islam: communities of interpretation,” mentioned this idea in terms of the different theological interpretations that have emerged over the course of time, but as we have learned in this course this concept can be extended even beyond that. There is no single race, gender, or culture that Islam was ascribed to, and hence there is no one kind of Muslim that is dominant over the others.

One of this course’s most important lessons for me, personally, is that the several stereotypes that we commonly assume about Islam are not correct. This was evident as we learned about the different architectural practices within Islam, the communities of interpretation, the localized traditions that have incorporated Islamic practice, and even the localized forms of artistic expression.

These are the several themes from the course that I have tried my best to incorporate into this piece, through the art of calligraphy that was mentioned during the initial part of the course. The images that I have selected to make up the word “Islam” particularly stress the diversity within Islam that we have so often spoken about in this course.

The images include several different kinds of mosques from across the globe. These range from North African mosques to mosques that are found in eastern Europe. Furthermore, important places for different sects within Islam such as the Shia shrines are also included. Some images also show women in congregation and reciting the Qur’an, whereas some depict the localized artform that have developed in relation to Islam, such as ancient manuscripts from the Mali Empire that were used to train Islamic scholars.

This diversity within Islam has been a very important personal lesson that I’ve learned from this course. It is, therefore, something that I have tried to convey though this creative project. It showcases a themes that is not only an important theme from Week 5, but one that underlies all of what we have learned throughout this course so far.


A Poem in Devotion to God

March 12th, 2018

Medium: Poetry.

Week 7: Muslim Devotion in Local Contexts.

Title: A Poem in Devotion to God

Zikr Kerna Na Mumkin Hai

It is impossible to praise you

Shukr Kerna Lazim Hai

But an obligation to thank you

Hisaab Kerna Na Mumkin Hai

It is impossible to account in front of you

Jawaab Dena Lazim Hai

But an obligation to answer you

Subah Se Shaam Hojaey

As dawn descends into dusk

Zindagi Tamaam Hojaey

And my life recedes into nothing

Shumaar Kerne Beythoon Toh

As I sit down to praise you

Lafz Bhi Tamaam Hojayien

Even words amount to nothing

This course has particularly emphasized the importance of artistic expression in Islamic tradition. We have learned about how this artistic expression is expressed within the local context and how local cultural and traditional practices are incorporated into an expression of religious devotion. In Week 6, we saw one particular example of this in the Ta’ziyah among the many others we have seen throughout this course.

In this piece, I’ve tried to carry through with this idea of artistically expressing Islam by incorporating local tradition, which in my case is South Asian poetry. I’ve written this short poem in my native language Urdu and have provided a translation of the poem in English as well.

The central idea behind this poem is that God’s magnificence is incomprehensible to the human mind and how this results in a, seemingly, insurmountable challenge for Muslims.

In this short poem, I mention some of the obligations that a Muslim has to fulfill in this life and the afterlife and how, when viewed from a broader lens, they seem almost impossible. For example, by saying that it is impossible to praise God, I call on the idea that God’s positive attributes are infinite, and a mere human being can never fully comprehend God’s splendor let alone do justice to it through his praise.

Furthermore, I also write that it is impossible for a human being to for his actions in front of God, making an indirect allusion to the concept that a mere human cannot withstand God’s presence. This particular point was evident when the following Quranic verse that narrated Moses’s encounter with God was mentioned in class:

“When Moses came to the place appointed by Us and his Lord addressed him, he said ‘O my Lord! Show yourself to me that I may look upon You.’ God said ‘By no means can you see Me; but look upon the mountain; if it abides in its place then you shall see Me.’ When his Lord manifested His glory on the mount, He made it as dust and Moses fell down in a swoon.” Quran 7:143

Yet, even though both tasks are impossible they are also an obligation to every Muslim. This idea of having an obligation to do what seems impossible further underscores the many challenges that Muslims must overcome in their daily life, challenges that truly highlight the meaning of the term Islam – submitting to God’s will.