By Noor Shaheen
While doing this art project, what inspired me the most was my love and appreciation for the mystical side of Islam: Sufism. I have read a book called The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak, last summer. This book brought Sufism into my life for the first time, and it definitely added a touch of beauty and a new kind of love to my life. The story features Jalaluddin Rumi the well-known Sufi mystic and his companion Shams of Tabriz, and it takes us in a journey led by Shams and through a narrative he tells us the forty rules of love and life that are in essence Sufi teachings of how to live this life and love God. Sufism is purity. Sufism is unity. The unity of all that surrounds us and all of which is within us.
In my project, I used paint and an array of colors as the background. I tried to represent most colors found in nature, it is presenting unity as all the colors merge to become a part of one piece of art, unlike the usual white color which they always draw in relation to Islam. I used different shades of blue, green, yellow, pink and red. In the center of my project, was a figure representing Sufism, which is the whirling Dervish. This is usually the most significant symbol of Sufism. Whirling or dancing is an important ritual to Sufis, and with it they reach a higher level of closeness to God. The reason he does not have any specific features is because I wanted to express the spiritual side not the physical appearance of the dervish. The whirling dervish has his fists out directed upwards – to God. He whirls until he can reach the connection he needs with the Divine. Also, the sun is an important component, because it symbolizes power and the importance of nature, which is a gift from Allah. The next element in my project, which is very important, is a few of Shams’ Rules on love and life, which were taken from the book. The following are the quotes I used:
· “Hell is in the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy or fight someone we tumble straight into the fires of hell.”
· “You can study God through everything and everyone in the universe, because God is not confined in a mosque, synagogue or church. But if you are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for him: in the heart of a true lover.”
· “A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western. Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water.”
· “If you want to strengthen your faith, you will need to soften inside. For your faith to be rock solid, your heart needs to be as soft as a feather. Through an illness, accident, loss or fright, one way or another, we are all faced with incidents that teach us how to become less selfish and judgmental and more compassionate and generous. Yet some of us learn the lesson and manage to become milder, while some others end up becoming even harsher than before…”
· “God is a meticulous dock maker. So precise is His order that everything on earth happens in its own time. Neither a minute late nor a minute early. And for everyone without exception, the clock works accurately. For each there is a time to love and a time to die.”
I chose Sufism because it’s a side of Islam, which should be explored and understood more, and I believe that if people understand it whatever their religion or beliefs are they will fall in love with Islam, and understand it. Islam is a religion of peace and love. I hope many can understand this message. I hope people understand what Islam is really about. I hope a beard and a veil do not terrify non-Muslims. And I hope everyone would fall in love with Sufism just like I did. And just like Jelaluddin Rumi once said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” We have to give the other a chance, understand them and give them the freedom to believe in whatever it is they want to believe in.