By Jamal J. Elias

Media assurance of the Danish sketch concern and the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan left Westerners with a powerful effect that Islam doesn't countenance depiction of non secular imagery. Jamal J. Elias corrects this view by way of revealing the complexity of Islamic attitudes towards representational spiritual artwork. Aisha’s Cushion emphasizes Islam’s perceptual and highbrow modes and in so doing deals the reader either perception into Islamic visible tradition and a distinct means of seeing the world.

Aisha’s Cushion evaluates the controversies surrounding blasphemy and iconoclasm by means of exploring Islamic societies on the time of Muhammad and the start of Islam; in the course of early touch among Arab Muslims and Byzantine Christians; in medieval Anatolia and India; and nowa days. Elias’s inquiry then is going additional, to situate Islamic spiritual paintings in an international context. His comparisons with Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu attitudes towards spiritual artwork convey them to be as contradictory as these of Islam. modern theories approximately art’s position in society tell Elias’s research of ways spiritual gadgets were understood throughout time and in numerous cultures.

Elias contends that Islamic views on illustration and belief might be sought not just in theological writings or aesthetic treatises yet in various Islamic works in parts as varied as optics, alchemy, dreaming, calligraphy, literature, motor vehicle and residential ornament, and Sufi metaphysics. Unearthing colours of which means in Islamic idea all through background, Elias deals clean perception into the kin between faith, artwork, and belief throughout a huge diversity of cultures.

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Extra resources for Aisha's Cushion: Religious Art, Perception, and Practice in Islam

Sample text

These include devotional images of holy relics such as the Prophet’s footprint as well as images of Sufi and Shi‘i saints that have gained widespread popularity in certain societies following the proliferation of printing technologies in the last two centuries. In some ways, these images, which are often textually captioned in a manner that guides the viewer in how she or he should engage with the image, can also be seen as narrative images, since the very captioning situates the object within a historical memory involving narratives of holy lives.

Grabar examined the account give by al-Maqrizi (d. 1442) of a competition between two eleventh-century painters named al- Qusayr and Ibn ‘Aziz. One of the painters claimed to be able to represent a person in relief so that the subject appeared three-dimensional (and therefore “real”), while the other boasted that he could do so by embedding the image in a wall. Immediately before this brief anecdote in al-Maqrizi’s history is an account of a mosque in Cairo that contained a representation of a fountain with footsteps going up to it; viewed from a particu lar spot, it looked as if an actual (three- dimensional) staircase led to the fountain.

Although in a contemporary context the term (from the Greek eikpn, or “image”) brings to mind portable, painted, religious images on wood, canvas, or glass, for the purposes of this historical discussion neither the portability of the image nor its medium is relevant. Therefore the category of “icon” as the word is being employed here also includes frescoes, mosaics, prints on paper, and statuary. The concept of the icon carries relevance for contexts broader than those of Orthodox Christianity, and the relationships of resemblance suggested by iconicity also pertain to Muslim environments, a a i s h a ’ s c u s h i o n 44 subject explored later in this book.

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