‘Anything but one culture, one thing, one place, one time’ — displaying the art of Islam

Dpx7k_6XoAABHkpAndrew Graham-Dixon explores the British Museum’s new Albukhary Foundation Gallery — opening on 18 October, and presenting a fresh look at the institution’s astonishing Islamic collection and the diversity of cultures behind it.

The British Museum is a treasure trove of Islamic art and artefacts. Its collections of Moghul, Mamluk and Safavid metalwork are unparalleled; and its many early manuscript pages from the Qur’an include some of the most wrenchingly vivid sheets of calligraphy to have survived the centuries that first witnessed the rise of a powerful new faith preached by the followers of a man called Prophet Mohammed.

One of these pages in particular has fascinated me ever since I first saw it some 30 or 40 years ago, even though I lack the language to read it. Inscribed in Kufic by a Syrian scribe in the ninth or 10th century, it vibrates with spiritual conviction: the characters are ranked in a phalanx of forms, each holy word resembling (to my eye at least) an inkblack chariot of war on a parchment field of battle.

Page from the Quran, 9th-10th century. Photo The Trustees of the British Museum
Page from the Qur’an, 9th-10th century. Photo: The Trustees of the British Museum

The museum also houses a number of astonishingly intricate examples of Iznik ceramic ware, including a mosque lamp from the mid-16th century refurbishment of the Dome of the Rock, bequeathed by former trustee Charles Drury Edward Fortnum (1820-99). That object is itself a fine complement to the matchless group of some 600 pieces of Islamic pottery that once formed part of the collection of Frederick Du Cane Godman (1834-1919), a connoisseur and ornithologist persuaded onto the board of the British Museum by the tireless Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks (1826-97).

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIES.COM

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Modesty in Islam

muslim man and womanIn Islam, men and women share responsibility in upholding modesty and controlling their desires in society. Whether someone dresses or behaves modestly or not, the obligation to guard one’s own chastity rests with each gender. While many people think that there is excessive emphasis on modesty for women, God’s command for men to maintain modesty precedes the one for women in the Quran: “Tell believing men to lower their glances and guard their private parts: that is purer for them. God is well aware of everything they do” (24:30).

READ: Linden teacher fasting for Ramadan in support of Muslim fourth-grader 

While many people think that Muslim women are enjoined to wear the hijab primarily to restrain men’s illicit desires, this is not true. Indeed, it is not women’s duty to regulate the behavior of men. Men are accountable for their own conduct; they are equally required to be modest and to handle themselves responsibly in every sphere of their lives. Further, Islam’s code of modesty extends to all aspects of one’s life, including attire. Hijab, the head-covering worn by Muslim women, is an outer manifestation of an inner commitment to worship God.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MYCENTRALJERSEY.COM

The Saudi regime does not represent Islam

efaa3c4b81cf475fb1326562d52c9bc1_18The Khashoggi affair is yet another reason for the world to abandon the assumption that the kingdom represents Islam.

The recent disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has the world’s fingers pointed in the direction of the Saudi government, specifically at its de-facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen living in exile in the United States because of his criticism of the Saudi regime, earned the esteem of audiences that read his political commentary in both Arabic and English. He was last seen alive entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, when he visited to procure documents he needed to wed his Turkish fiancee.

Speculation about bin Salman ordering his kidnapping, or state-sponsored murder, rose to the fore, dominating mainstream and social media discussions about the missing journalist’s likely fate. On October 19, Saudi authorities finally admitted Khashoggi was killed inside the country’s Istanbul consulate. This admission merely confirmed a conclusion most had already drawn given the regime’s dismal human rights record and fierce intolerance to any criticism: The Saudi government was directly responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance and death.

And where Saudi Arabia is the subject of wrongdoing, Islam stands alongside it. Collaterally implicated and indicted as the source of the vile actions taken by a government that, since its inception as a sovereign state, has been popularly anointed as the living embodiment of the religion.

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Khashoggi case: A timeline

This, again, was the case with the Khashoggi affair. The unknown whereabouts of the journalist, widely regarded to be among the most courageous indigenous critics of the Saudi regime, implicated Islam in the minds of many. The “redeployment of Orientalist tropes,” as articulated by law scholar Leti Volpp, surged to the surface and steered the popular discourse, driving immediate conclusions that Islam itself is “intolerant to criticism,” “resistant to independent media voices,” and “suppressive of dissidence.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

The compassionate face of Islam

1281136-326978879MUSLIMS should welcome the announcement by Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs, that it will be the government’s policy to promote compassionate Islam.

Actually, I believe there is only an “Islam” whose teachings are primarily compassionate, a blessing and merciful. Anyone who reads the Quran will know that it describes itself as a “healing and a mercy to those who believe” (Al Isra (17) verse 82).

In fact, the Holy Prophet Muhammad himself is described in the Quran as rahmatan lil Alamiin for the whole world and the creations (Al Anbiya (21): verse 107).

Essentially, rahmah means love or affection and is often understood to mean the love of God for mankind and His creations where He has provided everything they need to develop and live on this earth. In other words, the Quran guides mankind to understand and appreciate this rahmah through its guidance.

One who reads the Quran will also appreciate that it beseeches mankind to ponder and think about life and the laws of nature to further appreciate the rahmah of God.

Dr Mujahid also pointed out the use of state resources to confront “public sins” and “private sins” to show, I believe, that any use of religious enforcement powers must be tampered with common sense and compassion.

I believe real scholars of Islam know that there is an abundance of literature that discourages the deliberate attempt to expose private sins.

For reasons which I cannot understand, Dr Mujahid has been exposed to irrelevant criticisms by some Muslim religious experts implicit within which is the assumption that he is ignorant of the discourse in these matters.

I would have thought that this would have been an opportunity for religious experts to exercise husnuzan (benefit of the doubt) and to embrace the idea of promoting the compassionate face of Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE STAR (MALAYSIA)

 

A shift in Islam – and beyond

0924 upfront dupfront demoracyWhat is the right balance between a living faith that embraces the changing times and the religious traditions and doctrines that are often millenniums old?

Taylor Luck’s cover story this week appears to be about a shift within Islam. From Jordan to Tunisia, Taylor sees seeds of political moderation taking root. The cataclysmic failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, together with broader trends in globalization, is prompting a rethink among many Islamic political activists. They are seeing that women’s rights, religious tolerance, and other democratic ideals can be a winning combination.

Yet the story also hints at a deeper and more universal question that faces not only Islam, but also Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and the core views of many other faiths. What is the right balance between a living faith that embraces the changing times and the religious traditions and doctrines that are often millenniums old?

Most readers of Taylor’s story will surely cheer the changes now affecting Islam. Women’s rights and the expansion of civil liberties are essential elements of human progress. But change the focal distance, and the comfortable acceptance of cultural change in some distant place can become more unsettling closer to home. If modern cultural forces are bringing a welcome breeze of enlightenment to Islam, then why are such forces sometimes seen as threatening religious traditions in other places?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR 

Ashura: What is it, when is it and how is it celebrated?

day_of_ashura_by_zhrza-dawb0r8Muslims around the world will be gathering to commemorate the day of Ashura today as part of the new month Muharram.

Muharram is the first month in the Muslim calendar and is regarded as one of the holiest, aside from Ramadan.

The month is marked by solemn commemoration and remembrance instead of celebration and includes within it the day of Ashura.

Ashura is a special day in Muslim culture, but is specifically more significant for Shia Muslims, who use it to comemmorate the martyrdom of Hussein.

Why is Ashura significant?

Muslims will remember the day as when Noah left the Ark, and when Moses was saved by God from the Egyptians.

Shia Muslims however commemorate the occasion as it marks the martyrdom of Hussein at Kerbala.

Hussein was a grandson of the prophet Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic faith, and he perished in battle at Kerbala during 680AD.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE EXPRESS (UK)

 

Faith communities are mobilizing against Trump’s family separation policy

BORDER PATROL

On April 6, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions first announced the so-called “zero-tolerance policy” at the border between the US and Mexico, he shepherded in a practice of government-sanctioned abduction of more than 2,500 children from their parents that rightfully drew widespread public outrage. Sessions was quick to reference scripture in its defense: “Obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes” (Romans 13:1).

The Bible passage Sessions twisted to serve his political purposes is the same one later echoed by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders to justify the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies. It is the same passage that, once upon a time, was used to justify the enslavement of people from Africa. And it is the same passage used by the Nazis to justify the Holocaust.

As faith leaders from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, we won’t sit idly by while holy texts are used to perpetuate injustice, the closing off of borders to those in need, and the inhumane treatment of children and families. For the past week, we have led the multi-faith community in a “Week of Witness” that included lullaby sing-alongs and prayer vigils in congregations across the country to raise awareness of the hundreds of children still separated from their parents a month after the court-ordered reunification deadline, and to share a message of love to those in detention that may feel unwelcome or alone.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HILL