“Poetry is the soul of the Arabs,”
“That is no poetic exaggeration: whatever troubles that soul is reflected, magically, in the poetry. Reading Arabic poetry, therefore, is not an idle exercise. It is a trip inside the Arab soul.”
Poetry is an integral part of Arab culture, and people from the western world may be surprised to learn that poetry was and is an effective way to convey a political message.
“In every Arab country every day, poets appear on television, on the radio, or in the newspaper. Every single newspaper in the Arab world every day has poetry -- this is nothing new…Poetry is the essence of Arab culture.” Frangieh, (a professor of Arabic from Yale University).
Long before the advent of Islam, Arab Tribes would gather once a year to a place near Mecca called Souk Ukaz. There, Poets from all over Arabia would recite their poems in front of a panel of judges, and each year, the winning poem would be displayed in gold lettering over the Ka’bah in Mecca. It was a great honor.
The Arab culture is steeped in the tradition of poetry. The Arab poet held a position of authority, representing the voice of their tribe, recounting news, tribal politics, achievements, victories, matrimony and deaths.
The poems were a reflection of the customs, traditions and values of each tribe.
“The poem itself reflects the history of the tribe -- the principles, the values, the customs, the traditions,” Frangieh explains. “You want to know anything about the Arabic people -- about their history, tradition, genealogy, battles, love affairs -- you turn to poetry.”
Here is an eighth-century poem by al-Mahdi, in which the poet extols his patron and his generosity towards him..
“ While not every wealthy personage shows
munificence, by my life Ibn Barmak has shown
generosity toward me.
I have used my poems to milk his palms, and
they have flowed copiously like rain-clouds in a
The writing of the Qur’an required a tremendous amount of genealogical and linguistic research. It‘s infrastructure includes Islamic law, literary references and poetry. Muhammad allegedly had his own poet, known as Shu’ara’ al-rasul, meaning Poet of the prophet. Poets retained their status in the community, and played an important part in Arabian politics
Understanding Islamic art also is vital in order to begin to comprehend the complexity of the Islamic culture, and perhaps changing the way we understand each other.
Dana Awartani is an experienced traditional artist based in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. Dedicated to the revival of historical crafts from the Islamic world, Dana works with a wide range of materials including ceramics, natural pigments, and woodwork inspired by centuries of historical Islamic geometry and patterns.
On her website you will see beautiful examples of her own Islamic art and a detailed explanation of its significance as a cultural learning tool.
Dana explains that
“Islamic art is predominately made up of patterns due to the absence of figurative images and icons to prevent the art being a form of worship. Geometry plays a crucial role in Islamic art; it can be seen as the foundation or guideline. Every element of Islamic art is entwined with geometric proportions, and is used to tell a story. If you look at calligraphy, each letter is composed using very strict geometric measurements that must be followed. In miniature painting and manuscript illumination, the layout of the page is generally composed using geometric principles.”
Two years ago, I went to an exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art called NUR.
"Nur" means "Light" in ancient Arabic. The exhibition was full of the most beautiful art work, paintings, ceramics, tiles, all embellished by intricate patterns of infinity and luminescence.
I attended an informative lecture presented by the curator of the collection, where she explained that the rich and diverse patterns and structured geometric patterns follow the laws of symmetry, harmony and structure. She explained that nothing is ever random in Islamic art; no pattern is ever created without obeying the laws of harmony.
The harmony and structure of everything on this earth is expressed through pattern in Islamic art, and this is the Gestalt of Islamic art.
When you look at the art of illumination, and examine each pattern carefully, (even flowers), you will see that everything is proportional, even spirals are constructed where the patterns are repeated, and symmetry is at their core.
Using light, ( white tile, white paint, luminescent glazes), behind the patterns brings perspective to each design, and represents the illusion of Light, the light of the world, ( Muhaamad ).
Dana Awartani states,
“It is now more important than ever to try to depict Islam in a positive manner and show the beauty behind the religion and the huge accomplishments the Muslim empires were able to achieve in history.”
After the exhibition, I wrote the bones of a poem entitled NUR, which I have since finished, and will include it here.
In my poem I explain why I feel it is important to find common ground in order to communicate effectively, and find ways to create peace in the world .
"Nur" is the Arabic word for light
It means "Light" in both the physical
and the metaphysical sense
"The light of the world" is used in Judaism
and the Islamic faith
The glow of candles
The luminosity of stained glass windows
They all represent ever-expanding patterns of light
The Astro-compass was invented by Arabs
All elements of
A common factor between cultures
Light and Space!
Without light, there would be darkness...
Geometric patterns that expand forever
The glory of symmetry
The Muslim faith pays homage to God through infinity
Can we find common ground through Light?
Light needs a balance of all the colors of the spectrum.....
All cultures, all men, all women....
Then we can live in Light and Peace!
The perfect geometric formula for everlasting light
There will be no place for darkness to fall for those who follow the light...
The universal sign from the Universe !
In order to achieve any kind of peace between the Western and the Eastern world,, we must grow a seed.
A seed of communication.
That seed could be in the form of poetry or art; conduits that speak to the soul, and allow the shoots of new understanding to appear.
If poetry is such an integral part of life for Arabic cultures, maybe we should be using it for a higher cause. one little poem at a time.
In my next poem, I express my fear and my passion about the escalation of violence in this world, particularly over the last 2 months, and want to scatter the seeds of hope for a better world.
As the Rainbow Mushroom cloud disperses over Orlando,
A fresh Blue cloud ascends, dampening the glow with anger and resentment,
Then, before the dawn, another huge, Red cloud of blood spills over all colors
flooding the horizon, and drowning all hope.
With man, swimming aimlessly
swimming in a thick sea of sanguine..
How can we rise from this sea of endless blood?
Once covered in thick, clammy clots
We are blind to the color of our skin
We cannot see whether we are white or black
Or Muslim or Hindu...
Saving each other from certain drowning
We could lift each other up!
We may begin to recognise
That "Inclusion and Love" are the only path
The only path to "heaven"
Labels must be abandoned
As Muslims believe in the divine light of Mohammed
We must look to the light to deliver us
As Christians believe in the divine light of Christ
We must look to the light to deliver us
As Agnostics that believe in the divine light of life itself..
We must look to the light to deliver us
As one human race, NUR is the answer
NUR is the key to everlasting peace
May the blessings of light and love be upon you
Now and forever
If you are enjoying reading my blog, and find it inspirational, please feel free to comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would love to hear feedback, or feature artists who have a common cause.
Thank you .