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Week 4: Hadith Transmission

Filed under: Uncategorized — fatimashahbaz at 1:30 am on Wednesday, October 23, 2019


In Week 4, we learned about the role of the Prophet in Islam and Islam as a religion of models. One of the greatest roles of the Prophet was his role as a “walking Quran”, with his lifestyle and teachings being codified in Sunnah and Hadith. I found the mechanism in which Hadith, or the sayings and lessons of the Prophet that expanded upon the Quran, to be one of the most interesting parts of the course so far—because it’s been a concept I’ve struggled with independently for a few years.  For how could we be sure it was the truth, especially when considering the fallibility of man?

The chain of verification, and the secondary re-verification, reassured me that Hadiths were far more valid than child me had previously known. The three classifications of hadith as strong, medium, and weak, also particularly interested me, because why would someone insist on believing in a hadith that is known to be weak? Learning more about the isnads and the chains of transmission, I realized that it was considered a literal tree of communication—with some branches being stronger than others. That’s why I decided to draw a tree, to also reference the motif of nature as knowledge, and the ability to being able to “grow” and “tend” to your spiritual knowledge.

I specifically chose this pencil and paper method of art because I thought it spoke most to the theme of knowledge and learning, which I feel ties directly to Hadith and Sunnah, because they’re both meant to be mechanisms of knowledge and learning. I imagined that, at some point, a companion sat to write down the actions or sayings of the Prophet, so I felt it would only be appropriate if it was in this format. Some branches are longer than others to also indicate discrepancy in how many people were involved in the train of transmission, with the assumption that the fewer the people, the more trustworthy they had to be—which is why those branches are thicker.  Finally, I decorated the “leaves” of the tree with common Sunnah, to showcase how they were spread and encouraged throughout all of the Muslim world.

Week 6: Debate over “Islamic” Art

Filed under: Uncategorized — fatimashahbaz at 8:35 pm on Tuesday, October 22, 2019



This week in class, we discussed the symbolism of art in mosques and diversity of mosques throughout the world, watched a documentary that outlined the diversity of art in the Islamic world and debated the origin of the concept of “Islamic” art in section.

While watching the film, I struggled with the concept of an “Islamic world” at all, particularly when they discussed the difference between the world’s “Islamic” art and “secular” art, because presumably if such a world existed, all the art in it could be considered Islamic to some degree. A similar complexity arrived in our debate in our weekly section, where we unpacked the opposing viewpoints of Necipoglu and Nasr on  significance of Islamic decor. Necipoglu asserts that there is no such thing as “Islamic” art, and that the arabesque, or repeating geometric pattern, that adorns is simply secular art that has been exoticized by the Western world, and subsequently, by the Arab world. Essentially, she argues that we cannot ascribe intent onto art that was meant to be purely decorative, especially because we cannot associate a singular artistic form with Islam. Nasr, on the other hand, stated that arabesque art is specifically Islamic because of its devotional nature, a notion that most of our class agreed with.

A question I had throughout this discussion was–what came first? Was it that arabesque art came first and then was ascribed an Islamic value after it was popularized and “orientalized” by the West, or was it that the initial artists created the art with devotion and Islam in mind and then it became popularized? In order to encapsulate the age old conundrum of what came first, I decided to depict it in an arabesque chicken in an egg. By placing the chicken IN the egg, I hope to depict the fact that we really truly can never know which came first, but a hope that we can continue to appreciate the artistic nature of Islam regardless,

Week 3: Reverse Poem

Filed under: Uncategorized — fatimashahbaz at 1:48 am on Monday, October 21, 2019

In week 3, we discussed the sacred nature of the Quran, and the complexities and controversies in its codification and translation.  Moreover, we reflected on the importance and beauty in its recitation and calligraphy, and watched the film, the Koran by Heart.

Throughout the week, I struggled with the idea of a single translation of the Quran. As a Muslim myself, I’ve always felt that Islam and the Quran is up to an individual’s interpretation of both—but also, I recognize the need for at least some unification in the basic translation and understanding of the Quran. We learned the importance of vocalization and punctuation in the text, which can lead to significantly different interpretations and translations of the text—a concept I both appreciated and struggled with tremendously.  This made me wonder—why is one translation more valid than another? How do we know what the original punctuation was intended to be? However, despite this confusion, I know that what makes one translation valid, or what people consider to be valid is support for that translation. Our beliefs and understanding of the Quran is rooted in our community’s beliefs and understanding. Due to the patriarchal tradition within the world at large, often times translations and interpretations of hadith have been used to reinforce sexist traditions or read systems of inequality into text that did not previously exist.

In order to depict this confusion for different “truths” in Islam, I wrote the following “reverse” poem, or a poem that can be read forwards and backwards and have a different or opposite meaning.


A woman is half a man.

So don’t believe it if you hear

That equality should exist.
For as the essence of Islam has taught us

A woman is not to be trusted.

Her word is twisted and

I refuse to listen when people say

It is a mistranslation

Of our holy book

For that is a disrespect

To what our community leaders have told us

Close your ears to

Feminist nonsense.

What they call

Islamic truth is

Nothing beyond western drivel

They try and tell us it is

Scripture says

Men and women are equal.

They lie.