18 February 2015

A Real Fake: OMG Religion

Seventh pass: blue linework on the left.

Religion is a problem. And I say this as someone who actually loves religion. I've been interested in religion since childhood. I have a proclivity toward spiritual or mystical experiences which I can't seem to help, even as I find lacking the intellectual underpinnings of most philosophies/religions that provide language for such experiences. I'm no anti-theist; not an atheist either. Maybe an agnostic, with a dash of humanist optimism and a lot of interest in the ancient spiritual technologies that the world's religious systems hold. In spite of my interest, though, the rules and regulations and lists and arcane details embodied in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and even Buddhism are overwhelming and boring and frankly make my eyes glaze over.

Eighth pass: brown vertical lines along the gold trim.

Islam seems to me to be one of the more rule-bound of the world's religions. I've had trouble making sense of what I've been reading as I've worked on this print. The rules about depicting Muhammad seem conflicting, but here are a few articles about depictions that were written after the Charlie Hebdo shootings:

- Drawing the Prophet: Islam's Hidden History of Muhammad Images (The Guardian)
- How Images of the Prophet Muhammad Became "Forbidden" (Washington Post)
- You can't draw Muhammad — unless you're one of many Muslim artists who did (PRI's The World)

One key point seems to be that there were, or are, different rules in different regions, with stronger prohibitions in the Arab states and fewer in non-Arab places like Turkey and India.

Another key point for this project of mine is that I can't win. I've been trying to make a beautiful and respectful image of Muhammad based on history, but today I realized that it doesn't matter how beautiful or how true to the original I make it: it will be unacceptable. What happened today to make me realize this? I read a verse from the Hadiths. Second in stature only to the Qur'an, the Hadiths are viewed by Sunni (Arab) Muslims as detailed records of what Muhammad taught and did. Here's what I read:

Sahih Muslim vol.3 no.5271 (p.1161):
‘Verily the most grievously tormented people amongst the denizens [inhabitants] of Hell on the Day of Resurrection would be the painters of pictures...'

Ninth pass: Linework on rug.

Nothing could be clearer. It's not just pictures of Muhammed, but all pictures that should not be made. And it's not just infidels who make pictures that are condemned, but anyone who makes pictures. Artists, all artists, condemned to torment in hell by Islam.

So here I am, embarked on another quixotic adventure.


Victoria said...

Well, at least you'll be in good company.

Annie B said...

Indeed. And you'll be there too, right?