Thought Archive

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Night of Power

In the name of God, the Benevolent, the Merciful.1 Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Predestination.2 Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Night of Power is!3 The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.4 The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees.5 (The night is) Peace until the rising of the dawn.

Laylat al-Qadr (Arabic: لیلة القدر) (also known as Shab-e-Qadr), basically the Night of Decree or Night of Measures, is the anniversary of two very important dates in Islam that occurred in the month of Ramadan. It is the anniversary of the night Muslims believe the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Prophet Muhammad.

One of the many devotional pictures showing unusually the face of the Prophet and Family. This picture represents the prophet Muhammad in the middle, with his veiled daughter Fatima on his left hand side, his cousin and son in law on his right hand side, and his two grandsons, Ali's og Fatima's sons, Hasan (in green) and Husayn (in red). "The holy family" or "the Holy Five" has a high position among all Muslims, but particularly among Shia Muslims. Behind Muhammad stands an angel (Gabriel) with the Quran in his hands. for the angel Djibril was the one who brought the first revelation to Muhammad on that very night, the night of Power. In this picture, like in many other representations of Ali, he holds in his hands one of his characteristics, the double pointed sword Dhu 'l-Faqar.


Riri said...

I didn't know it was allowed to represent and illustrate the Prophet and his family in Shia Islam. In Sunni Islam, any illustrations of divine entities or prophets or any good men are prohibitted because of fears of degeneration into pre-Islamic polytheistic associations with God.

Happy 'Night of Power' by the way.

NoolaBeulah said...

It may lead to idolatry, but I am so glad that the Catholic church never took this line, unlike the Sunnis, the Jews and (at times) the Greek Orthodox. No Giotto, Leonardo, no van Gogh? Blah! What a diminishment of life.

NoolaBeulah said...

By the way, how do the Sunnis deal with photography and films? Can there be no prophets or good men in them? Or are they somehow different to painting?

Riri said...

well; there is a wide range of opinions there are groups who think photos music and film are an abomination and a sort of idolatry in the sense that they are trying to replicate Allah's creation !!!! (Oh Gawd!) in addition to the less serious matter of encouraging debauchery and deception etc I remember there was a time in Algeria when the ismlamists were propganding their social, political and economic reformation dicta, they released a fatwa against passport photographs and family photographs and the likes.

Obviously there are always many views, but my personal view is one inspired by a Brit comedy:

Brian: I'm not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!

Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.

Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!

Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!

Brian: Now, fuck off!

Arthur: How shall we fuck off, O Lord?

NoolaBeulah said...

That is one of the great films. It has an amazing impact on my political outlook. For instance, that one famous question, "What did the Romans ever do for us?" literally turned my mind upside down. And the Latin lesson scene (sure sign that the writers came from our noble Public (= private) schools).

Hazar Nesimi said...

I was away guys, but here i am again.

I think the Shia (and some Sunni schools too, some Sunni too) line was that icon-like canvass paintings could be worshipped as idols (aka Christian) and therefore were indeed prohibited, but book illustrations were no such things and could not be worshipped in such a way and therefore not haram.

In Persianized cultures of middle east representation of human form was never prohibited as it was a grey area for them, - Shia religious imagery has proliferated therefore in this environment, however was confined to relatively few instances of displaying Imams mostly. The one attached is one of the rarer form of imagery - this is a modern example and i doubt that there is medieval equivalent, in most medieval book paintings the face of the Prophet is covered by either wall of fire. There is a famous 13 century book painting of the Prophet ascending Heaven during Mirage


NoolaBeulah said...

What is the case now, Nazim? Are such representations frowned upon or growing more common?

Is there any tradition of the 'human form divine' such as we inherited from the Greeks?

Hazar Nesimi said...

The concept of God made flesh is so alien to Islam, i do not think there is danger to these images being worshipped or thought to have healing qualities like icons. But certainly, it maybe frowned upon by some clergy, these images are very much widespred. I think in Iran, they maybe even encouraged by them, for clergy worries more about piety of population than the way this piety exhibits itself. At every major shrine one can buy a pictures of 12 imams, Ali and Fatima and this is how it has been all time. Of course images of the Prophet are very very rare, and one thinks these are probably modern inventions, for in Medieval paintints as i said, His face is always covered.

I myself, very tolerant of these images, which offer to poor and uneducated some path to divine, but of course attach no significance to them beyond artistic. Divinity of Islam is in Quran alone.

NoolaBeulah said...

I think I misled you by using the phrase 'human form divine', which was used by a rather weird Christian, William Blake.

I was actually referring to the Ancient Greek creation of Beauty as an artistic aim, which led to them performing their Games naked and setting a standard of sculpture that the West had to wait 2,000 years to attain again. A typical example.

You are right, however, to mention the 'God made flesh' because that surely had a great influence on the return of the Greek model during the Renaissance.