Saluting the artist Shua’ib

Assalamu Alaikum Dear Readers,

Peace be with you this beautiful sunny August day. What a blessing to enjoy that ‘glorious morning light’ (Quran 91:1) and be in good health. I pray you who read this, are all in good health, physically, mentally and most importantly, emotionally. I pray your heart is expanded and filled with that sense of true belonging that is the foundation of serenity. And who do we belong to, except to the One who made us.

This is a post about the artist Shu’aib. I was fortunate to meet him when I was in Spain this Spring. He is a beautifully humble man. A delight to be around. The type of person, one feels ennobled by, not in a grandiose manner, but due to his sincere humility and beautiful comportment. Perhaps this is what the artisans and guildsman of old were like. Truly dedicated to a craft and they have a sense of dignity in how they carry themselves. He is a Spaniard, who I believe, like many thousands of others, are discovering that centuries ago their ancestors were Spanish Muslims. Please note, ethnic Spanish Muslims and not Arabs who lived in Spain. I do not know if this is what lead him to Islam. But he converted and unfortunately then faced a lot of hostility from his surroundings. So much that he had to move.

His trade is in ceramic work and he hand crafts some gorgeous pieces. He has commissions from some major mosques around the world I was told. He lives in a complex that is somewhat like a ‘kibbutz’ I think. There is a house that has a prayer hall, his workshop, garden plots and some farm land in the back, and goats! We offered the noon prayer there and then stayed to enjoy a very special tea that he served us out in the garden.

He has a website, Al-Yarrar (linked) but I am not sure you can buy online. A speciality to the kingdom of Granada was the Nasari style pottery, a type of lusterware. Lusterware is a technique developed during the Islamic Golden Age in Iraq (9th or 10th CE / 3rd or 4th Hijri?) and then it soon spread across the Muslim world. It involves reducing elements through a firing process to produce beautiful shining gold-like effects and can be done in other colours too. Here is a nice article with information. One of the most famous remaining examples of this style is the ‘vase of the gazelles’ in the Alhambra palace. Here is a picture, it really is stunning.

To end some pictures I took. Captions on the images. I especially liked the image in the prayer hall – it is the entire quran on one sheet of paper. I could actually read the verses! I am not sure if it is a hand-written Quran or not.

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The entire Quran! And in my reading of it not a single vowel was out of place. The size must have been 1.5 ft by 2.5 ft.
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The 99 names of God in square kufic script calligraphy, the frame was surrounded by the largest rosary (Muslims use these as a means of counting when repeating the names of God in dhikr=remembrance, a common spiritual practice) I’ve ever seen. The frame was about 1.5 ft by 1.5ft
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Collage of the tile making process – from Shuaib’s workshop
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Shuaib pouring tea in the garden. I don’t have his permission to share this, but I hope he won’t mind.
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Items for sale
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Lusterware pieces
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A replica of the famous ‘jar of the Gazelles’ from the Alhambra palace
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Finally, two little pieces to grace my Quran table. MashaAllahu ta’ala

 

May God bless our brother Shu’aib and give him every success here and hereafter.

Truly it is a beautiful call

Assalamu alaikum dear readers, peace be with you,

The moon is full tonight and it is a ‘supermoon’. Beautiful to behold, quietly radiant, softly white. And it marks the half of the month of Shawwal already passing. Time passes so quickly and how little control we have over time. Which reminds me of the hadith qudsi (narrations from the prophet peace be upon him, where the words are from the prophet though the message is from God, the exalted, the high. This is in difference to the Quran, where the words are from God, the exalted and the messenger peace be upon him, only transmits or utters them. And it is also different to the hadith literature – which are sayings of the blessed messenger himself and not the word of God, the exalted) that goes like this;

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“Allah said:

‘Sons of Adam inveigh against [the vicissitudes of] Time, and I am Time, in My hand is the night and the day.’” (1)


(1) Note from commentator – As the Almighty is the Ordainer of all things, to inveigh against misfortunes that are part of Time is tantamount to inveighing against Him.

It was related by al-Bukhari (also by Muslim).

 

And that milky bright moon, whose face beheld that of the blessed messenger…feasting my eyes upon its glorious super-moon splendour tonight, I thank God for the gift of eyesight and for the wondrous creation that is the moon and the sun’s light that it reflects. Isn’t it amazing that a great concentration of earth can become such a shining mirror! Subhahanalllah (=exalted is God)! Truly the methodology of the fashioning of the universe exudes the name of God – Al-Kareem (The Generous). And no generosity is akin to the generosity of the limitless divine. How little we understand of our Maker and how little we are able to in our created state. Subhahanallah.

To continue, feasting my eyes on the beauteous face of this bright pure moon, I echo the prayer our beloved messenger taught us to make, each time he saw the moon. He (peace be upon him) would say ” O moon, as you do worship God, so do I ” (I could not find the source for this narration, and it is my habit to usually give the source-text. However there is scholarly consensus that in certain matters – such as this quote, which is only meant to engender faith in the heart and can do no harm, it is okay to use even if the source is weak. Therefore I am not so worried about not finding the source for this one. Truly I can’t recall where I learnt it, I only remember reading it years ago and perhaps due to its simple joyous expression of faith – it was engraved in my memory). And I recall the numerous hadith from the companions of the blessed prophet (Gods’ pleasure be on them all) who all likened the beauty of Muhammed to that of the moon. I will give one here, and others are nicely compiled in this post

Jaber bin Sumrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “I saw Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on a full-moon night.  His face was radiating with light, I looked at him and looked at the moon repeatedly.  His face was brighter than the moon”

(this hadith is in Imam Tirmidhi’s Shama’il)

Now it is strange, I titled this post on the call to prayer – the Azan. For I have come across a most beautiful azan that I want to share, and yet I am writing about the moon. But perhaps not so strange, for as the moon calls the waters of the oceans in tide-swell, so this azan calls the heart of all who listen to a heart-swell of peace. I pray you feel this peace, and so share this with you.

God bless you all

 

Wonders of the Heart – Part 1

A must share! And much needed boost after the inevitable post-ramadan slump we all experience it seems :). As one of my teachers says – you must have your ‘regular diet of ‘ilm (=sacred knowledge)’. The heart almost craves this and feels starved otherwise. No wonder then, we were so energized during Ramadan – a time when the heart is well fed. A time when our physical bodily needs fade into the background and we can hear the hunger pangs of the heart, and then set about feeding it for that one special month. My dear brothers and sisters – lets’ not let our hearts starve now that Ramadan is over. For the Quranic ayat is true and has been testified unto by seekers for centuries past…”Without doubt, in the remembrance of Allaah (=God), do hearts find peace.” – Quran 13:28

The Firmament of Wisdom

 ‘Self-knowledge is the foundation of the way of the wayfarers’

writes Imam Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111) in his Ihya ‘Ulum ad-Dïn [Revivification of Religious Sciences]. Commenting on this sentence, the 17th century Muslim scholar and theologian, Faidh Al-Kashani, wrote a short treatise titled Maqâmât al-Qalb [Stations of the Heart]. The following text is a translation of Faidh’s introduction to the Stations of the Heart.

 اَلقَلبُ هُوَ العٰالمُ باللّهِ ۞ وَهُوَ العامِلُ للّه ۞ وَالسّٰاعي إلٰی اللّهِ ۞ وَهُوَ المُتِقرّبُ إلَيهِ ۞ وَهُوَ الکٰاشفُ لِمٰا عِندَ اللهِ ۞ وَإنّمٰا الجَوٰارِحُ أَتبٰاعٌ لِلْقَلبِ ۞ والْبَدَنُ آلَةٌ يَسْتَخْدَمُهُ القَلبُ۞ وَيَستَعْمِلُها اسْتِعمٰالَ المٰالکِ لِلْعَبيد ۞ وَاسْتِخدٰام الرٰاعي للرعية ۞ وَالصٰانعُ للآلة

It is the heart that knows God; and performs actions for God; it is the heart that moves towards God; and seeks nearness to God; it is the heart that discovers the divine mysteries. The bodily organs are all subservient to the Heart; the body itself is…

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