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Thursday, June 29, 2017

What is Islamic art?

    Thursday, June 29, 2017   No comments

 by Dr. Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis

The Dome of the Rock, the Taj Mahal, a Mina’i ware bowl, a silk carpet, a Qur‘an—all of these are examples of Islamic art. But what is Islamic art?
Islamic art is a modern concept created by art historians in the 19th century to facilitate categorization and study of the material first produced under the Islamic peoples that emerged from Arabia in the seventh century.
Today, the term Islamic art describes all of the arts that were produced in the lands where Islam was the dominant religion or the religion of those who ruled. Unlike the terms Christian art, Jewish art, and Buddhist art—which refer only to religious art of these faiths—the term Islamic art is not used merely to describe religious art or architecture but applies to all art forms produced in the Islamic world.
Thus, the term Islamic art refers not only to works created by Muslim artists, artisans, and architects or for Muslim patrons. It encompasses works created by Muslim artists for patrons of any faith, including—Christians, Jews, or Hindus—and the works created by Jews, Christians, and others, living in Islamic lands, for patrons, Muslim and otherwise.
One of the most famous monuments of Islamic art is the Taj Mahal, a royal mausoleum, located in Agra, India. Hinduism is the majority religion in India; however, because Muslim rulers, most famously the Mughals, dominated large areas of modern-day India for centuries, India has a vast range of Islamic art and architecture. The Great Mosque of Xian, China is one of the oldest and best preserved mosques in China. First constructed in 742 CE, the mosque’s current form dates to the 15th century CE and follows the plan and architecture of a contemporary Buddhist temple. In fact, much Islamic art and architecture was—and still is—created through a synthesis of local traditions and more global ideas.

Islamic art is not a monolithic style or movement; it spans 1,300 years of history and has incredible geographic diversity—Islamic empires and dynasties controlled territory from Spain to western China at various points in history. However, few if any of these various countries or Muslim empires would have referred to their art as Islamic. An artisan in Damascus thought of his work as Syrian or Damascene—not as Islamic.
As a result of thinking about the problems of calling such art Islamic, certain scholars and major museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have decided to omit the term Islamic when they renamed their new galleries of Islamic art. Instead, they are called “Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia,” thereby stressing the regional styles and individual cultures. Thus, when using the phrase, Islamic art, one should know that it is a useful, but artificial, concept.
In some ways, Islamic art is a bit like referring to the Italian Renaissance. During the Renaissance, there was no unified Italy; it was a land of independent city-states. No one would have thought of themselves as an Italian, or of the art they produced as Italian. Rather, a person would have self-identified as a Roman, a Florentine, or a Venetian. Each city developed a highly local, remarkable style. At the same time, there are certain underlying themes or similarities that unify the art and architecture of these cities and allow scholars to speak of an Italian Renaissance.
Themes
Similarly, there are themes and types of objects that link the arts of the Islamic world together. Calligraphy is a very important art form in the Islamic world. The Qur’an, written in elegant scripts, represents Allah’s—or God’s—divine word, which Muhammad received directly from Allah during his visions. Quranic verses, executed in calligraphy, are found on many different forms of art and architecture. Likewise, poetry can be found on everything from ceramic bowls to the walls of houses. Calligraphy’s omnipresence underscores the value that is placed on language, specifically Arabic.
Geometric and vegetative motifs are very popular throughout the lands where Islam was once or still is a major religion and cultural force, appearing in the private palaces of buildings such as the Alhambra, in Spain, as well as in the detailed metal work of Safavid Iran. Likewise, certain building types appear throughout the Islamic world: mosques with their minarets, mausolea, gardens, and madrasas—religious schools—are all common. However, their forms vary greatly.

One of the most common misconceptions about the art of the Islamic world is that it is aniconic; that is, the art does not contain representations of humans or animals. Early examples of religious art and architecture, such as the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque—both in Jerusalem)—and the Great Mosque of Damascus—built under the Umayyad rulers—did not include human figures and animals. However, the private residences of sovereigns, such as Qasr ‘Amra and Khirbat Mafjar, were filled with vast figurative paintings, mosaics, and sculpture.

The study of the arts of the Islamic world has also lagged behind other fields in art history. There are several reasons for this. First, many scholars are not familiar with Arabic or Farsi—the dominant language in Iran. Calligraphy, particularly Arabic calligraphy, as noted above, is a major art form and appears on almost all types of architecture and arts. Second, the art forms and objects prized in the Islamic world do not correspond to those traditionally valued by art historians and collectors in the Western world. The so-called decorative arts—carpets, ceramics, metalwork, and books—are types of art that Western scholars have traditionally valued less than painting and sculpture. However, the last fifty years has seen a flourishing of scholarship on the arts of the Islamic world.
Arts of the Islamic world

In this article, we use the phrase “Arts of the Islamic World” to emphasize that the art discussed was created in a world where Islam was a dominant religion or a major cultural force but was not necessarily religious art. Often, when the word Islamic is used today, it is used to describe something religious; thus using the phrase Islamic art could be mistakenly interpreted to mean that all of this art is religious in nature. The phrase Arts of the Islamic World also acknowledges that not all of the work produced in the Islamic world was for Muslims or created by Muslims.

Friday, May 26, 2017

What qualifies financial services or products to be sharia-compliant?

    Friday, May 26, 2017   No comments
Economists specializing in the study of Islamic finance and economics have reduced Islamic laws governing financial and economic transactions to two: proscription on receiving or paying “interest” and mandating that investors and developers

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Islamic Law and Institutions: Select Bibliography

    Sunday, January 22, 2017   No comments

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Books: Politics and Religion in Islam

    Sunday, January 08, 2017   No comments
Books: Politics and Religion in Islam

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    Sunday, January 08, 2017   No comments
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The Mejelle: Ottoman Legal Code

    Sunday, January 08, 2017   No comments
The Mejelle

Edited by Jonathan T. Capes
PART I
DEFINITION AND CLASSIFICATION OF ISLAMIC JURISPRUDENCE
Article 1. The science of Islamic jurisprudence consists of a knowledge of the precepts of the Divine Legislator in their relation to human affairs.
The questions of Islamic jurisprudence either concern the next world, being known as rules relating to worship, or to this world, being divided into sections dealing with domestic relations, civil obligations and punishments. Thus God decreed the continuation of the world until the appointed time. This, however, can only occur by mankind being perpetuated which is dependent upon marriage of male and female with a view to procreation. Moreover, the continuation of the human species is assured by individuals associating together. Man, however, in view of the weakness of his nature is dependent upon food, clothing, housing and the industries for his subsistence. In other words, in view of the fact that man is a civilized being, he cannot live in solitude like the other animals, but is in need of co-operation and association in work with his fellow men in order to live in a state of Civilization. Every person, however, asks for the things which he likes and avoids things which are disagreeable to him. As a result, it has been necessary to establish laws of a nature likely to maintain order and justice as regards marriage, mutual help and social relations, which are the basis of all civilization.
The first division of Islamic jurisprudence is the section dealing with domestic relations. The second is the section dealing with civil obligations. In view of the fact that the continuance of civilization on this basis necessitates the drawing up of certain matters relating to punishments the third section of Islamic jurisprudence deals with punishments.
As regards the section dealing with civil obligations, the questions which are of the most frequent occurrence have been collected together from reliable works and set out in this Code in the form of Books. These Books have been divided into Chapters and the Chapters into Sections. The questions of detail which will be applied in the Courts are those questions which are set out in the following Chapters and Sections. Muslim jurists, however, have grouped questions of Islamic jurisprudence under certain general rules, each one of which embraces a large number of questions and which, in the treatises on Islamic jurisprudence, are taken as justification to prove these questions. The preliminary study of these rules facilitates the comprehension of the questions and serves to fix them in the mind. Consequently, ninety nine rules of Islamic jurisprudence have been collected together as follows, before commencing on the main work and form Part II.
Although a few of them, taken alone, admit of certain exceptions, their general application is in no way invalidated thereby, since they are closely interrelated.

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RIGHTS OF ENEMIES AT WAR

    Sunday, January 08, 2017   No comments

By Abu al-A`la al-Mawdudi

After dealing with the rights of the citizens of an Islamic State, I would like to briefly discuss the rights which Islam has conferred on its enemies. In the days when Islam came into focus the world was completely unaware of the concept of humane and decent rules of war. The West became conscious of this concept for the first time through the works of the seventeenth century thinker, Grotius. But the actual codification of the 'international law' in war began in the middle of the nineteenth century. Prior to this no concept of civilized behavior in war was found in the West. All forms of barbarity and savagery were perpetrated in war, and the rights of those at war were not even recognized, let alone respected. The laws which were framed in this field during the nineteenth century or over the following period up to the present day, cannot be called 'laws' in the real sense of the word. They are only in the nature of conventions and agreements and calling them 'international law' is actually a kind of misnomer, because no nation regards them binding when they are at war, unless, of course, when the adversaries also agree to abide by them. In other words, these civilized laws imply that if our enemies respect them then we shall also abide by them, and if they ignore these human conventions and take recourse to barbaric and cruel ways of waging war, then we shall also adopt the same or similar techniques. It is obvious that such a course which depends on mutual acceptance and agreement cannot be called 'law'. This is the reason why the provisions of this so-called 'inter- national law' have been flouted and ignored in every way, and every time they have been revised, additions or deletions have been made in them. Law of War and Peace in Islam:
The rules which have been framed by Islam to make war civilized and humane, are in the nature of law, because they are the injunctions of God and His Prophet which are followed by Muslims in all circum- stances, irrespective of the behavior of the enemy. It is now for the scholars to find out how far the West has availed of the laws of war given by Islam thirteen hundred years ago; and even after the adaptation of some of the laws of Islam how far the West attained those heights of civilized and humane methods of warfare which Muslims reached through the blessings of Islam. Western writers have often asserted that the Prophet had borrowed everything in his teachings from the Jews and the Christians. Instead of saying anything in its refutation I will only recommend the reader to refer to the Bible so that he can see which methods of war are recommended by the sacred Book of these Western claimants to civilization and culture.
We have examined in some detail the basic human rights that Islam has conferred on man. Let us now find out what rights and obligations Islam recognizes for an enemy.
The Rights of the Non-Combatants
Islam has first drawn a clear line of distinction between the combatants and the non-combatants of the enemy country. As far as the non-combatant population is concerned such as women, children, the old and the infirm, etc., the instructions of the Prophet are as follows: "Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman" (AD). "Do not kill the monks in monasteries" or "Do not kill the peo-ple who are sitting in places of worship" (Musnad of Ibn Hanbal).
During a war, the Prophet saw the corpse of a woman lying on the ground and observed: "She was not fighting. How then she came to be killed?" From this statement of the Prophet the exegetes and jurists have drawn the principle that those who are non-combatants should not be killed during or after the war.
The Rights of the Combatants
Now let us see what rights Islam has conferred on the combatants.
1. Torture with Fire
In the Hadíth there is a saying of the Prophet that: "Punishment by fire does not behoove anyone except the Master of the Fire" (AD). The injunction deduced from this saying is that the adversary should not be burnt alive.
2. Protection of the Wounded
"Do not attack a wounded person"-thus said the Prophet. This means that the wounded soldiers who are not fit to fight, nor actually fighting, should not be attacked.
3. The Prisoner of War should not be Slain
"No prisoner should be put to the sword"-a very clear and unequivocal instruction given by the Prophet (S).
4. No one should be tied to be killed
"The Prophet has prohibited the killing of anyone who is tied or is in captivity."
5. No Looting and Destruction in the Enemy's Country
Muslims have also been instructed by the Prophet that if they should enter the enemy's territory, they should not indulge in pillage or plunder nor destroy the residential areas, nor touch the property of anyone except those who are fighting with them. It has been narrated in the Hadíth: "The Prophet has prohibited the believers from loot and plunder" (al-Bukhari; AD). His injunction is: "The loot is no more lawful than the carrion" (AD). Abu Bakr al-Siddiq used to instruct the soldiers while sending them to war, "Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle." The booty of war which is acquired from the battleground is altogether different from this. It consists of the wealth, provisions and equipment captured only from the camps and military headquarters of the combatant armies.
6. Sanctity of Property
The Muslims have also been prohibited from taking anything from the general public of a conquered country without paying for it. If in a war the Muslim army occupies an area of the enemy country, and is encamped there, it does not have the right to use the things belonging to the people without their consent. If they need anything, they should purchase it from the local population or should obtain permission from the owners. Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, while instructing the Muslim armies being dispatched to the battlefront would go to the extent of saying that Muslim soldiers should not even use the milk of cattle without the permission of their owners.
7. Sanctity of a Dead Body
Islam has categorically prohibited its followers from disgracing or mutilating the corpses of their enemies as was practiced in Arabia before the advent of Islam. It has been said in the Hadíth: "The Prophet has prohibited us from mutilating the corpses of the enemies" (al- Bukhari; AD). The occasion on which this order was given is highly instructive. In the Battle of Uhud the disbelievers mutilated the bodies of the Muslims, who had fallen on the battlefield and sacrificed their lives for the sake of Islam, by cutting off their ears and noses, and threading them together to put round their necks as trophies of war. The abdomen of Hamzah, the uncle of the Prophet, was ripped open by Quraysh, his liver was taken out and chewed by Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyán, the leader of the Meccan army. The Muslims were naturally enraged by this horrible sight. But the Prophet asked his followers not to mete out similar treatment to the dead bodies of the enemies. This great example of forbearance and restraint is sufficient to convince any reasonable man who is not blinded by prejudice or bias, that Islam is really the religion sent down by the Creator of the universe, and that if human emotions had any admission in Islam, then this horrible sight on the battlefield of Uhud would have provoked the Prophet to order his followers to mutilate the bodies of their enemy in the same manner.
8. Return of Corpses of the Enemy
In the Battle of Ahzab a very renowned and redoubtable warrior of the enemy was killed and his body fell down in the trench which the Muslims had dug for the defense of Medina. The unbelievers presented ten thousand dinars to the Prophet and requested that the dead body of their fallen warrior may be handed over to them. The Prophet replied "I do not sell dead bodies. You can take away the corpse of your fallen comrade."
9. Prohibition of Breach of Treaties
Islam has strictly prohibited treachery. One of the instructions that the Prophet used to give to the Muslim warriors while sending them to the battlefront was: "Do not be guilty of breach of faith." This order has been repeated in the Holy Qur’án and the Hadíth again and again, that if the enemy acts treacherously let him do so, you should never go back on your promise. There is a famous incident in the peace treaty of Hudaybiyyah, when after the settlement of the terms of the treaty, Abu Jandal, the son of the emissary of the unbelievers who had negotiated this treaty with the Muslims, came, fettered and blood-stained, rushing to the Muslim camp and crying for help. The Prophet told him "Since the terms of the treaty have been settled, we are not in a position to help you out. You should go back with your father. God will provide you with some other opportunity to escape this persecution." The entire Muslim army was deeply touched and grieved at the sad plight of Abu Jandal and many of them were moved to tears. But when the Prophet declared that "We cannot break the agreement", not even a single person came forward to help the unfortunate prisoner, so the unbelievers forcibly dragged him back to Mecca. This is an unparalleled example of the observance of the terms of agreement by the Muslims, and Islamic history can show many examples of a similar nature.
10. Rules about Declaration of War
It has been laid down in the Holy Qur’án: "If you apprehend breach of treaty from a people, then openly throw the treaty at their faces" [8:58]. In this verse, Muslims have been prohibited from opening hostilities against their enemies without properly declaring war against them, unless of course, the adversary has already started aggression against them. Otherwise the Qur’án has clearly given the injunction to Muslims that they should intimate to their enemies that no treaty exists between them, and they are at war with them. The present day 'inter- national law' has also laid down that hostilities should not be started without declaration of war, but since it is a man-made rule, they are free to violate it whenever it is convenient. On the other hand, the laws for Muslims have been framed by God, hence they cannot be violated.
Conclusion
This is a brief sketch of those rights which fourteen hundred years ago Is-lam gave to man, to those who were at war with each other and to the citizens of its state, which every believer regards as sacred as law. On the one hand, it refreshes and strengthens our faith in Islam when we realize that even in this modern age which makes such loud claims of progress and enlightenment, the world has not been able to produce just and more equitable laws than those given 1400 years ago. On the other hand it hurts one's feelings that Muslims are in possession of such a splendid and comprehensive system of law and yet they look forward for guidance to those leaders of the West who could not have dreamed of attaining those heights of truth and justice which was achieved a long time ago. Even more painful than this is the realization that throughout the world the rulers who claim to be Muslims have made disobedience to their God and the Prophet as the basis and foundation of their government. May God have mercy on them and give them the true guidance.

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