Dr. Amanullah De Sondy
Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies
University of Miami
As 2012 came to an end, there was a flurry of photographs and pictures to depict the year that’s past. A 17 year old art student from London had created a different sketch from the news for every day in 2012.
Gideon Summerfield spoke about his last drawing of the year which was of Lakdhar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League peace envoy to Syria who recently stated that the crisis was intensifying. My own thoughts turned to the ongoing Syrian crisis but also to my time in Damascus in 1999. This image had invoked all sorts of feelings within me, just as Gideon had hoped. And I’ve been thinking about how we reflect on the past and present through the senses we have.
As a Muslim, I’ve grown up reading and hearing quite diverse views on figurative imagery in Islam. The hesitancy has always been associated with idol worship that dates back to some pre-Islamic customs of creating Gods out of dates and fruits in the morning and eating them in the evening. From an edible experience of God to an abstract one – both push us to consider how even in the most abstract of ideas, such as God, our senses are crucial.
Last night at a family dinner party my sister emerged clutching a huge box full of old family photographs. One particular one caught my eye. It was my sister’s graduation ceremony in primary education and we were posing in the lawn of the then Jordanhill College. I had completely forgotten that I was even there. Only to be reminded by my sister-in-law that it was a roasting hot day and she and I had sat in a boiling car. We also talked about my late father who was suited and booted and then the strawberry tart that I was feasting over and how delicious they were. Memories inspired by images and senses.
Here’s hoping that 2013 is a joyous one for all of us - filled with new texts and images that are brightened through our own very human senses.