Advancing theological and scientific literacy for today’s ʿulamāʾ
2.3.4 The Silent Theology of Islamic Art
Samarkand Shah-i-Zinda Tuman Aqa Complex tiles. Wikimedia Commons user InfoCan, 2012.
If asked to introduce Islam to an audience unfamiliar with the religion or civilization, I would not necessarily recommend a translation of the Qur’an; nor a book of Islamic law, theology, or philosophy; nor one of the many popular books purporting to introduce Islam to the West. Rather, I would recommend listening to a beautiful untranslated recitation of the Qur’an in an Arabic maqām (melodic mode); or contemplating an illuminated Ottoman manuscript of the holy book in thuluth or kufic calligraphy; or marveling at Fes’ Qarawiyyin, Isfahan’s Shaykh Lutfollah, or Cairo’s Ibn Tulun mosques; or listening to the music of the poetry of Hafez, Amīr Khusrow, or Ibn al-Fāriđ. These masterpieces of Islamic civilization communicate the beauty and truth of its revelation with a profound directness simply unmatched by articles or books about Islam… (Renovatio).
This Renovatio article suggests that Islam is best known not through books or discursive arguments, but rather through aesthetics. It is written by Oludamini Ogunnaike, now Assistant Professor of African Religious Thought and Democracy at the University of Virginia.
The Madrasa Discourses project proposes that a conciliation of traditional Islamic thought with contemporary scientific and philosophical worldviews can result in orthodox affirmations of human dignity essential for peaceful coexistence in a pluralistic world.