Thursday, April 30, 2015

What does Islamic Art and Architecture mean to you?

Salma Said

I asked a few people what Islamic art and architecture meant to them and surprisingly I got many unexpected as well as expected answers. People either explained to me what Islamic art and architecture was or they drew it. I handed out A4 plain white papers and pencils and people just drew what they though of Islamic art or architecture. It was a very interesting experience to see what people thought of Islamic art and architecture. One girl told me that Islamic art doesn’t exist because art in Islam is forbidden which was thought provoking because in this day and age I didn’t expect to run into such a matter. Another girl told me that Islamic art and architecture is how Muslims try to convey their artistic side while incorporating bits of Islam. I also asked my friend’s sister to draw what she thought was Islamic art and architecture. She drew a mosque, the Kaaba, the Qur'an, and a girl praying. When I asked her why she drew a girl praying she had said that praying is a form of Islamic art. And that was one of the things that has been said to me and left me speechless. Before taking this course I though Islamic art merely consisted of calligraphy and Islamic architecture includes only mosques and the Kaaba. However after taking this course I now know that Islamic art and architecture is very wide and diverse with many different designs and patterns. As well as Islamic art and architecture includes different styles: ancient, modern, and contemporary.

The pieces on the board were drawn in pencil, markers, and charcoal.


Salma Said, 21, Egyptian raised in Saudi Arabia studying International Relations in the UAE. My interests include politics and feminism. I also enjoy watching TV series such as Suits and Breaking Bad.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Women in Islam and Stereotypes

Eliot El Zein

In this art project I had an image in mind at first of the whole idea of women in general and what the Qur’an really says about them. I figured to draw a silhouette with Qur’anic verses inside the body using a normal A4 paper and pencil, and once I’m done with that, I scanned it into the computer and added body parts in the empty spaces. I thought this was a good idea because after interviewing a few Muslim female friends, I learned more about their thoughts on themselves and what their free minds has to say. The verse I chose were the ones I felt stood out the most in the Qur’an about women rights. 

On the first verse I used, it talked about how before Islam, the pagan Arabs used to torture and bury the female children and the women being used as objects of sexual pleasure possessing no rights or position. And the teachings of the Qur’an were revolutionary and put an end to the misuse of women. Islam regards men and women as being created from a single soul.

On the second verse, the verse acknowledges women as a piece of clothing that gives us warmth and comfort. This piece of clothing or garment is the grace, the beauty, the embellishment of the body and so are wives to their husbands. Islam does not consider women as “an instrument of the devil”, but rather as a fortress against Satan because a good woman, by marrying a man, helps him keep to the path of rectitude in his life.

In the third verse, it again refers to cruelty towards women before the advent of Islam, and that a Muslim must not hate his wife, and if he is displeased with one bad quality in her then let him be pleased with one that is good and also that the more civil and kind a Muslim is to his wife, the more perfect in faith he is. In Islam a woman is a completely independent personality. She can make any contract or bequest in her own name. She is entitled to inherit in her position as mother, as wife, as sister, and as daughter. She has perfect liberty to choose her husband. The Prophet's followers accepted his teachings and brought about a revolution in their social attitude towards women. They no longer considered women as mere chattels, but as an integral part of society. For the first time women were given the right to have a share in inheritance. In the new social climate, women rediscovered themselves and became highly active members of society rendering useful service during the wars which the pagan Arabs forced on the emerging Muslim Ummah. They carried provisions for the soldiers, nursed them, and even fought alongside them if it was necessary. It became a common sight to see women helping their husbands in the fields, carrying on trade and business independently, and going out of their homes to satisfy their needs.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Something Overlooked

Reem Al Ani

 “Something Overlooked” is a detailed drawing, 59.4 × 84.1cm in size, done in acrylic paints, ink pens, and felt tip markers on paper. It emulates the Persian and Ottoman miniature styles, but modernized in both drawing style – brightly colored but retailing the two-dimensionality – as well as content. Borrowing different elements of Persian miniature paintings to create one “larger” miniature, it is a collage of women going about their daily lives, mostly leisure, looking satisfied and confident. At the top left is a woman exiting her house, wearing an Abaya but with trendier clothes. At the top right, women are enjoying their day at a café on a balcony. Other women go shopping. There are women wearing hijabs and others without a hijab. Two women go camping on their own, enjoying the scene. Finally, there is a man holding a baby in his arms on an escalator. The perspective, similar to miniatures, is slightly skewed. The terrain, as well, is related to Dubai. An arabesque pattern and foliage decorate the miniature throughout.
Persian miniatures were often used to accompany manuscripts and were narrative in nature, often depicting religious events, or scenes from every day life. Miniatures are part of larger works compiled into albums that were restricted to rulers, thus were not viewed. Just like how these manuscripts are valuable and expensive, and a part of Islamic history, modern extremists nowadays would like to preserve this “liberal” image of women in the past and almost censor them from the public eye or knowledge. The scenes depicted in the artwork are normal, every day scenes in different countries in the Middle East, which unfortunately some people, particularly men, see as undesirable. These people try to justify their reasoning through religion; however, this is in fact contradictory in Islam as Khadija, the Prophet’s first wife, was a successful businesswoman in her time. The verse that is the most misinterpreted, according to several Muslim scholars, is verse 4:34 in the Holy Quran that introduces the concept of “qiwamah”, or responsibility of men over women, which some people equate to men’s superiority and authority over women, when in fact if a woman is the breadwinner of the household, she has equal responsibility to exercise guardianship over her household. Many people try to read the Quran as literally as possible to justify their actions, which has a myriad of repercussions, from the more severe, the justification of spousal abuse, to the everyday, unnecessarily sheltering women, and blaming them for being a temptation.
The inspiration to create this work around this subject matter is attributed to Hayv Kahraman, an Iraqi female artist. She examines the various ways in which the women deal with their sexuality and femininity post-war, sometimes depicting women during hair-removal and beautification process. She draws inspiration from Persian miniatures to draw her women, and her Muslim women express their identity in different ways, and are not a homogenous group of people.
Reem Al Ani is an Iraqi student studying Advertising at the American University in Dubai. She enjoys creativity, complexity, and controversy, and employs this in her illustration and written work to the best of her ability. She seeks irony in every context, and social issues such as the abuse of domestic workers and environmental issues fuel her desire to communicate and impact others whenever possible.