Exploring Islam Through Art, Culture, and Literature

Week 4 Response – The Many Meanings of the Mi’raj

March 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

 

 

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The Mi’raj, or the story of the Prophet’s ascent to heaven, is marked by a number of interesting and colorful interactions that are well documented in Islamic art, as evidenced by the Seguy reading. However, one of the components of the story in some cultures that, though brought up in Chapter 3 of Infidel of Love, was not mentioned in the accounts of the Mi’raj assigned for discussion reading, was that of the negotiation between the Prophet and Allah for the salat to occur five times per day, instead of fifty. Given the smile and slight chuckle with which Prof. Asani presented this story in lecture, I felt it fitting to represent it in the form of a comic showing the Prophet – sporting a purple sweatband – “running” up and down the stairs between the final heaven where Allah resides, and the lower heaven where Muhammad encounters Moses. Finally, at the end of the comic, a reference is made to one of the many names of God, or God the compassionate and merciful, emphasizing God’s mercy in this case of not directing Muslims to pray fifty times per day.

Of course, though it might be humorous to consider the story of the Prophet’s ascension in this way, some of the deeper meanings of the Mi’raj can also be gleaned from this comic. This is mainly seen in the second and fifth frames, where the Prophet can be seen prostrating in the presence of God, who is represented here with brighter colors signifying His light that is the basis of all creation. Otherwise, He remains figureless, as no artist, especially a mediocre one like myself, would be able to capture the many facets of God and His beauty and power. Furthermore, this act of prostration is a clear representation of Muhammad’s complete submission to God, which is perhaps one of the central ideas put forth in the Mi’raj. As Prof. Asani describes in Infidel of Love, this submission represents complete clearing of the human ego, and all of the negative qualities associated with it, ultimately allowing Muhammad to “see” God everywhere. This is in keeping with the Prophet’s role as a model human, who other Muslims can emulate to best practice their faith and ultimately show their love for God.

Additionally, I chose to keep the language between God and Muhammad fairly casual when the two are interacting to help represent strength of the bond between the two figures. In a sense, it represents the deep love that the two share for each other, with Muhammad truly being God’s “beloved” and the chosen one to receive His message. This is further emphasized by the fact that Muhammad is able to visit God multiple times, perhaps serving as a testament to, as Prof. Asani suggests in Chapter Three of Infidel of Love, his special status as the chosen Prophet, whereas the lay Muslim might never be able to imagine meeting Him, or perhaps only during their final journey as a soul after death.

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