Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2015
My time as a volunteer in the Department of Islamic Art here at the Met has allowed me to reflect on my experience studying abroad last year in China and gain new perspective on the relationship between cultures that I had not previously considered. While in China, I had the opportunity to visit Kunming, the capital city of the southern Yunnan province. Dubbed the "eternal spring city," most days in Kunming consisted of cloudless blue skies and a light breeze, perfect conditions for exploring the city. While walking around the center of Kunming, I happened to see, among the sea of concrete and glass buildings, a bright-green dome topped with a steel crescent moon. Intrigued, I wove my way through alleyways until I came to the green-domed building. Much to my surprise, the structure was a mosque, bustling with people leaving midday prayer.
Posted: Tuesday, July 3, 2012
"In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful, from Muhammad the Messenger of God to Heraclius the Emperor of Byzantium, greetings to him who is the follower of righteous guidance. I bid you to hear the divine call. I am the Messenger of God to the people. Accept Islam for your salvation."
Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012
The tradition of inscribed textiles in the Islamic world dates to the passing of the Prophet Muhammad (632 A.D.), whose spiritual and political authority was transferred through the donning of his mantle. The newly formed Muslim state experienced a number of shifts in the political arena. New allegiances were often represented by epigraphic bands on textiles, particularly garments.
Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012
Walking through galleries that display Qur'ans and Muslim palatial sculpture, you may wonder what happened to the Christian communities who came to live under Islamic rule. In The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque, Sidney H. Griffith goes some way toward answering this question, showing how Christians made a place for themselves in the new Islamic caliphate.
Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Although al-Walid ibn Yazid, known as al-Walid II (r. 743–744), ruled for only a year, he is nonetheless one of the most colorful Umayyad caliphs. A grandson of Abd al-Malik, builder of the Dome of the Rock, he is recorded in historical sources as a proverbial man about town. His behavior was considered so profligate that he was passed over in succession to grandfather's throne. Instead, his uncle Hisham became caliph and al-Walid retired to his desert qasr to pass his time in song and pleasure among a retinue of his favorite drinking companions.
Posted: Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Look closely at the carved stonework from the facade of Qasr al-Mshatta, and you will spot a world of griffins, peacocks, lions, and pheasants hiding in the shade of delicately rendered grape leafs. The refinement of the representations here has captivated scholars and public alike for a century, ever since it arrived in Berlin as a gift from the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid to Kaiser Wilhelm I shortly before World War I.
Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012
The words "pilgrimage" and "sacred space," one evoking human movement and the other performative space, are inseparable from one another. Through pilgrimage, the pilgrim embarks on a spiritual path toward the full submission to God in an often-distant sacred space.
Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Umayyad qusur, or desert "palaces," are known for their variety of architectural styles and decoration. One example, Qusayr 'Amra, is well known on both counts.
Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Today we perceive Judaism and Christianity as totally separate religions, but in Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity, author Daniel Boyarin describes the process in which "borders" were created to divide what was once a unified "Judaeo-Christianity," and the rich cultural interactions that took place between Jews and Christians even as the divisions between them were erected.
Posted: Thursday, April 5, 2012
Struggles of succession plagued the community of Muslims in the decades after the Prophet Muhammed's death in 632 A.D. The first four Muslim leaders, known as the Rashidun, or "Rightly Guided" caliphs, did not succeed by birth, but rather were chosen by council or because of a personal relationship to the Prophet. The period was marked by strident disagreements about legitimacy of individual caliphs and about the proper practice of Islam.