Ubiquitous Voice

An artistic reply to "the Love of God and His Prophet"

Week 7: Silenced on All Sides

Filed under: Uncategorized March 19, 2016 @ 5:39 am


(oil pastel) Islam is a religion and a culture characterized by vast and abundant diversity in ritual, practice, and interpretation, which has resulted in a rich and inspiring collection of cultural manifestations which all hold the Qur’an and the core of Islam in common. As Daftary writes in Diversity in Islam: Communities of Interpretation, “almost every Muslim community, major or minor in terms of the size of its membership, has developed its own self-image and retrospective perceptions of its earlier history,” (Daftary 162). In this pastel drawing, I’ve attempted to symbolize some of that diversity in the central mosque, which features multicolored accents and hue variation.

However, in the course of history, there have been many hopes and efforts to eradicate diversity in Islam and to create a standard interpretation. According to the [medieval] Sunnis, who have always regarded themselves as the ‘true’ custodians and interpreters of the ‘Islamic truth,’ Islam from early on represented a monolithic community with a well-established doctrinal basis from which various groups then deviated and went astray” (Daftary 162). Moreover, Islamic communities often had heresiographers, who “had one major preoccupation: to prove the legitimacy of the particular community to which the author… belonged, refuting and condemning other communities as heretical,” (Daftary 162). To represent this internal push for uniformity within Islam, I drew the Faisal Mosque, a mosque gifted by the Saudi government to Pakistan and influenced by Saudi style, symbolic of the Saudi government’s actions to standardize Islamic practice and mosque spaces. The Faisal mosque, along with the green of the Saudi flag, closes in on the central mosque (diversity) on the right and applies the pressure of uniformity.

The West has also followed this trend: “…they [Europeans], too, endorsed the normativeness of Sunnism and distinguished it from Shiism, or any non-Sunni interpretation of Islam, with the use of terms such as ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heterodoxy,’ terms grounded in the Christian experience and inappropriate in an Islamic context,” (Daftary 162). I’ve represented this tendency of the West to impose its views on Islam, as well as the anti-Islamic sentiments found in the U.S., with a mainline protestant church that pressures the central mosque from the left, along with the colors of the American flag. The piece therefore represents the dual pressure that most Muslims face, both internal and external, to alter their culture to fit the views and interpretations of those in a more powerful position.


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