Indulge in Arts
By Yahiya Emerick
Islam is a religion of beauty. Indeed, it is human nature to love beautiful things. Allah SWT encourages us to beautify both the spiritual and physical aspects in human life. Indulging oneself in art is one such example. Allah SWT says, " O Children of Adam! Take your adornment when you go to mosques." [Al-A'raaf: 31]
When we look into our early childhood years and all of the things that have influenced our sense of the world, we find a vastly different reality from what we experience as adults. Indeed, we take a lot of things for granted that we did in our youth. As children, we sang songs and read stories. We painted pictures and built sand castles. We went to museums and sometimes traveled and saw a lot of beautiful sculptures, buildings, and other things created by the hands of men, or by the power of nature.
Our imagination, our very understanding of the world is often shaped by these sounds and images which collectively constitute what can be termed as 'art'. This phenomenon carries over into our adult lives and helps shape our tastes in decor and in how we structure our environment around us.
When we think of art, we often get mental images in our heads of paintings, theater productions, great writings, fine architecture, or the like. If I ask you right now to place a mental picture in your mind that represents art, what would you imagine? What is art to you? Chances are, everyone would think of something different, something unique to their own experience and tastes.
Now listen to this shocking tale: One day, a few years ago, I was teaching an Islamic studies class to fourth graders in an Islamic school. I do not remember what the lesson was on, maybe on solaah or seerah or something. Out of nowhere, one little girl, and I'll never forget this image, raised her hand and asked a question that was so unexpected that I was taken aback for a moment.
She asked, "Br. Yahiya, why don't Muslims have any talent?". I froze for the kind of second that seemed like an eternity. Can you imagine that question?! She was asking why Muslims had no artistic talent with regards to the arts! I quickly composed myself and began to explain that Muslims have been some of the finest artists in the world.
I mentioned the great architecture, the visual arts such as floral design, and Arabesque, even Persian miniature painting, the great poets, the finely woven carpets and so on. Do you know what? I saw in her face that she was not buying it, and I felt helpless. In a moment, I realized her reality. Although she came from a good Muslim family which had roots in the Muslim world, for her, the only art she ever saw was created by non-Muslims. She might recall trips to the museum which are filled with examples of art made by non-Muslims.
When she goes places with her family, she sees murals and giant modern art sculptures in steel and stone. She reads great books filled with life and imagination. When she turns on the television, she sees non-Muslim singers and musicians plying their craft, and great shows and pageants filled with actors and actresses. All of these things being exercises in art and creative expression.
She probably never had the chance to visit a beautiful mesjid full of art and decoration, and she probably never even sang a song about 'Eid that made her feel part of a larger identity, such as when the Christian and Jewish kids sing their songs of celebration during their holidays. In short, she saw Muslims as having no talent and not creating anything that was beautiful or pleasing to her senses.
Do you get the point? Do you understand? In her home, there is probably no piece of art made by any Muslim other than one of those machine-made, flashy plaques with some Qur'anic verses written on it, which she can't read anyway. Moreover, she had probably never read any book or poem written by a Muslim that fueled her imagination or made her smile.