Aesthetic Interpretation of Islam

Archive for March, 2018


Posted in Uncategorized on March 16th, 2018

An ayat is a sign, miracle, or a name given to a verse within the Quran which describes a miracle. An ayat is a sign from God. Signs of God are varied and range from those present in nature to the Quran itself. The Quran also guides human-kind towards a comprehension of the signs of God and the proof of His existence through reflection.

The signs of God operating to form a flower showcase, in my mind, the detail that goes into the reflection spoken of in the verse.

To explore this concept, I engaged in an aesthetic reflection of the various signs of God presented in the Quran. There is a well-known verse that states, “…Therein is certainly a sign in that for people who reflect.  He has made the night and the day subservient to you, and the sun, the moon and the stars, all subject to His command.  Therein are certainly signs in that for people who use their intellect.”


Calais, France

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14th, 2018


What makes this tent a mosque? Is it the tarp maneuvered to form a type a dome like space at the top of the tent? Is it the sign on the front that says “Mosque” in both English and Arabic? In 2014, migrants from Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, and Eritrea made camp outside of Calais, France en route to the UK. Much attention from the European press was made concerning a tent they pitched to form a place of worship. Inside, the mosque is outfitted with rugs and books. I was drawn to this photo because it depicts the way that cultural signifiers of Islamic architecture that are not detailed in the Quran have been transported outside of the boundaries of nation or state. In the photo, an attempt to replicate a dome that aesthetically represents a space for heaven has been made. I create this drawing with colored pencils and then edited it online to add red definition and highlight. This rendering also explores the definition of a place a worship that is not clearly outlined in the Quran. In this example, a mosque is mobile and sans-minurete. The attempt by migrants to create a dome is barely realistic of some kind of spire, and yet, the cultural markers of middle eastern architecture do not determine if this is a mosque. What designates this space as a mosque is the cleanliness of the space, the direction of worshipers, and the intention of the space. All these are present. Our discussions in class about the differences of Islamic aesthetic interpretation are complicated in a world where borders do not designate cultural separation. This artistic rendering of a photo of the tent they pitched explores concepts of architecture and the aesthetic of the Mosque, which we explored in Week 6.


The inspiration for the drawing comes from the following Daily Mail article: http://www.dailymail…


Calling Allah ~ ‘Ismu ’l-’A‘ẓam

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14th, 2018

Ismu l-Aẓam

by Katherine Alosi Okumu

You are called Al-Alim, the all-knowing one

Do you anticipate the persecution of your people?

You are called Al-Baseer, the all-seeing

Can you see the hatred boiling from the mouths of the militant?

You are called Al-Khabeer, the all-aware one

Accusations slice the ears and hearts of innocents

You are called As-Sami’, the all-hearer

Violence cuts the song of worship from the villager

You are called Al-Ba’ith, the infuser of new life

They have turned the commoners to martyrs

You are called Al-Muhaymin, the preserver of safety

While we lose our daughters and our fathers

You are called Al-Haadi, the provider of guidance

Guide us towards a righteous path

You are called Al-Jaami’, the assembler of scattered creations

Our lives forfeit to a citizenship in heaven

You are called Al Muntaqim, the avenger

Inflict your retribution on the heart and mind of Myanmar

You are called Al-Adl, the embodiment of justice

Justice in this life and the afterlife for all lives



In Week 1, we discussed the 99 names of Allah and their appearance in artistic renderings of Allah’s power and glory. Meant to be read allowed, the poem recalls the power of aural recitation, particularly when reciting the Quran or speaking the name of Allah. 

The title of the poem, ‘Ismu l-Aẓam, translates to, “the most supreme and superior name.” In some Sufi mystical traditions, this name is said to be the most powerful and, if spoken, will be answered with great intensity by Allah. Individuals have been deported/faced years of prison for delivering teachings about Sufism, accused of preaching.  

This poem was inspired by the ongoing persecution faced by Muslims in the Rakhine State of Myanmar and explores introductory components of Islam introduced in Week 1 of the course. The inspiration for this poem stems from the emotional intensity of discussing the history of Islam in a predominantly Buddhist state in the office I work within, The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations. I felt a sense of powerlessness; there is only so much an institution can do, particularly when constricted by both bureaucratic forces and one’s own awareness of the past results of Western influence. 

In the piece, I invoke 10 names of Allah to articulate details of suffering: lack of earthly citizenship, accusations of nature, and physical violence. The power of aural recitation is further emphasized by lines that refer to the silencing of voices and the context of the silencing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.