Salaam All

Long after the poetic juice of "Scripture My Hopes" had left Za's tongue at last week's event at the MYO, many people have met me and offered words of praise.

That's IMPACT...that's what ART can do...leave a deep imprint upon the memory.

So let's revisit the rationale for using ART to further the cause of theology, the cause of God. To do DAWAH (invitation to faith).

Art plays an enormous variety of roles in human life—evoking emotion, expressing grief, praising, celebrating. Poetry, in a deeper, unabstracted sense, holds the capacity to open up and encounter a material world; it invites reintegration of aspects of our humanity often severed and hints at meaning we had not imagined.

Art, in such a venture as DAWAH, is not simply a means of putting a beautiful gloss on our already-settled theology. Poetry is no mere analgesic prop for a theological lesson more purely articulated.

While art and theology have often held a tenuous relationship many people are now recognizing that our neglect of the arts has been to our own detriment.

For those with artistic sympathies or a sense of theological protectiveness, this new interest in communication can feel much like playing host at a party where certain guests are best kept from mingling too much—a no-nonsense mother-in-law, for instance, and one’s eccentric aunt. Too much interaction seems only to spoil both parties.

Far rarer are conversations that are at once both theologically sound and respectfully in tune with the integrity of the arts.
 
We have to think and re-think how we use the arts for dawah. The phrase ‘thinking and re-thinking’ here could easily be misunderstood as narrowly intellectualism—as if theology were ideally performed by pure minds, disembodied and detached from all practical interests, passions and commitments…

But theology as the pursuit of wisdom, though undoubtedly intellectual, is integrally related to action, and indeed to every aspect of our humanity. This means that the best theology is no more abstract than the arts itself.

The arts indeed offer a language in venues where more “traditional” theological language has been tuned out. Artistic Beauty is a powerful phenomenon...it is luminous and monumental.

The arts have a unique role in presenting the promises of God to a world in dire need of a promise that moves beyond abstraction. Thankfully, mercifully, the ways in which God’s love approach us—mind, soul, body, senses—are as multivalent as the Quranic news God has given us to profess. Theology through the arts has a remarkable ability to remind us that being human is a sacred reality. We have the incredible gift of imagination from a God who shows us precisely what that means in beautiful poetry.

This is a challenge to the Muslim leaders, the Muslim community to do the following:
1. Make the next Eid-ul-Fitr an artistic explosion.
2. Have "Poetry Evenings" across the country where Iqbal, Rumi, Sa'di, Hafiz are recited. Poems by these amazing poets will teach the young generation how to be better humans.

........................A part of a poem by Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari................
If you cast off your fault
you will cast off your ignorance.

If you recall your fault
you will forget your Lord.


MEANING: A reminder to us that obsessing on faults, imperfections, or sins keeps us cut off from the Divine. The proper approach is not to linger on one's personal or spiritual failures; that simply strengthens the illusory walls between the individual awareness and the Eternal. No, one must see those "faults" clearly, and seeing them clearly no longer cling to them, allowing them to simply fall away without self-condemnation.

We define ourselves by our faults, and create spiritual separation through self-condemnation. When we let them simply fall, the walls we imagined separating ourselves from the Eternal show themselves to have never been. "Ignorance" finally disappears and we we have all along been standing in the presence of the Divine.
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Let's get our young people doing calligraphy and poetry....and other art forms. Let the mosques come alive with their vibrancy.

Shamal...Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.