Islamic Images and Ideas: Essays on Sacred Symbolism

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The book Islamic Images and Ideas: Essays on Sacred Symbolism is a sourcebook for students and scholars seeking a deeper understanding of Islam’s spiritual and social side. It provides an analysis of twenty-four important images and ideas to expose readers to the inner dimensions of the Muslim faith.

Islamic Images and Ideas Essays on Sacred Symbolism
Islamic Images and Ideas Essays on Sacred Symbolism.jpg
AuthorJohn Andrew Morrow
GenreIslam’s spiritual and social side

About the author[edit | edit source]

John Andrew Morrow completed his Honors BA, MA, and PhD at the University of Toronto, as well as post-doctoral studies in Arabic in Morocco and at the University of Utah's Middle East Center. Besides his academic training, he has also completed the full cycle of traditional Islamic seminary studies. He has served as a faculty member and administrator at numerous colleges and universities.

He has authored and edited many books, including the "Encyclopedia of Islamic Herbal Medicine" (McFarland, 2011), "Religion and Revolution: Spiritual and Political Islam in Ernesto Cardenal" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012), "Islamic Images and Ideas: Essays on Sacred Symbolism" (McFarland, 2013), and "The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World" (Angelico Press / Sophia Perennis, 2013).

About the book[edit | edit source]

This book published in McFarland (November 11, 2013), has 288 pages and best sellers rank of 4,512,193 in Books.

To prepare this book, John Andrew Morrow rounded up a team of outstanding academics from around the world—including Algeria, Azerbaijan, Canada, Egypt, and Iran, as well as Italy, Morocco, Pakistan, and the United States—all of whom were especially eager to expand the Western world’s understanding of Islam. They have based themselves on the Qur’an and Sunnah, namely, the sayings and actions of the Prophet and his Household, as well as a broad range of Qur’anic commentaries, all enriched by the contributions of traditional scholars of Islam whose works have grasped the faith in both its outer and inner dimensions.

The present book falls primarily into the field of ‘irfan, or mysticism, and tasawwuf, the science of spirituality, while tackling theological and social issues at the same time. It explores a series of significant symbols found in the Qur’an and the Sunnah with each chapter addressing the multifarious manifestations of a single image according to Sunni, Shi‘ite and Sufi sources.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

Part 1, THE DIVINE[edit | edit source]

(Divine Unity, Creation, Wrath, and Justice)

The first section, “The Divine‌", commences with the be all and end all of Islamic belief: “Divine Unity” or tawhid. John Andrew Morrow presents a panoramic view of the multiple modes of tawhid, demonstrating that the degree of commonality between all Muslims far outweighs the differences that have divided them historically. This section is followed by Anna Maria Martelli’s piece, “Creation‌", which poses many pertinent questions concerning the world’s coming into being. In “Wrath‌", Amar Sellam shows the severity of the Divinity. Though God is the Avenger in Islam, He is always completely, totally, and utterly just. Hence, Hisham M. Ramadan, a jurist trained in both the Sunni shar‘iah and Western law, helps complete the profile of the Creator in “Justice.”

Part 2, THE SPIRITUAL[edit | edit source]

(The Path, Servitude, Perfection, The Jinn, Intoxication, and Fatimah)

The second section focuses on “The Spiritual.” It commences with author’s study, “The Path‌", which demonstrates the depth and diversity of Islamic spirituality, thus promoting hermeneutic pluralism as opposed to essentialism and fundamentalism. In “Servitude‌", Mustapha Naoui Kheir demonstrates that according to Islam, true freedom is solely found through submission, a concept that is quite counter-intuitive to the Western mind. Again, in author’s study, “Perfection‌", Morrow explores the Sufi concept of the Perfect Human, a purified person who has become the manifestation of the divine attributes. Anna Maria Martelli’s “The Jinn” is a stimulating scholarly survey on the subject of spiritual beings made of smokeless fire. While they are similar to angels and demons in a certain sense, the jinn are interdimensional beings who live within our world and beyond. Like humans, however, they are fallible and are subject to free will. In “Intoxication‌", Matthew Long provides a meticulous examination of inebriation in all of its dimensions: legal, physical, spiritual, and metaphysical. In the final chapter in this section, Bridget Blomfield engages in an especially esoteric approach of the Lady of Light, the dignified daughter of the Prophet Muhammad who is much revered by Muslims, particularly those of the Sufi and Shi‘ite persuasion. As Blomfield evidences in “Fatimah” Fatimah al-Zahra’ is very much the physical embodiment of Islamic spirituality.

Part 3, THE PHYSICAL[edit | edit source]

(Water, The Tree, The Sea, The Ship, Food, The Phallus, Eyebrows, and The Camel)

The third section, “The Physical‌", debuts with “Water.” In this chapter, Cyrus Ali Zargar provides a profound analysis of water as both physical and spiritual matter. In “The Tree‌", Said Mentak analyzes another interesting image which many inattentive readers simply pass by when reading the Qur’an. Naglaa Saad M. Hassan’s “The Sea” is an expansive examination of oceanic imagery in the Qur’an. In “The Ship‌", Said Mentak’s second study, the scholar showcases the socio-spiritual significance of sea-faring vessels while Naglaa Saad M. Hassan, in what is also her second study, whets the appetite of readers with “Food‌", a pertinent work that makes a welcome contribution to culinary history. Tackling a touchy topic, Mahdi Tourage’s “The Phallus” explores the symbolism of the sexual organ, a work with a firm theoretical foundation. In “Eyebrows‌", Aida Shahlar Gasimova’s shows how Islamic imagery has simply saturated Sufi poetry. In the last piece in this section, Mohamed Elkouche’s “The Camel” examines the camel and the needle’s eye, in light of both the Bible and the Qur’an.

Part 4, THE SOCIETAL[edit | edit source]

(Center, Ijtihad, Governance, Otherness, Ashura, and Arabic)

In the fourth and the last section, the study shifts towards “The Societal.” In “The Center‌", Hamza Zeghlache provides a study on the symbolism of the axis in traditional Islamic architecture and how Islamic images and ideas inspired the physical layout of ancient Muslim cities. This fascinating study is followed by “Ijtihad” by Sayyed Hassan Vahdati Shobeiri, an exploration of a traditional feature of Islam which allows it to adapt and evolve with the times while remaining rooted in immutable Islamic principles. In their study, “Governance‌", Zahur Ahmed Choudhri and Zahid Shahab Ahmed examine the image of political rule in the Qur’an and Sunnah, an issue which has been of critical concern to the Muslim community since the passing of the Prophet. Mohamed Elkouche’s “Otherness” is an especially intelligent exposition of Muslims and their perceived place in the order of society. In “Ashura”, Muhammad-Reza Fakhr-Rohani stresses the significance surrounding a tragedy so central to Shi‘ism: the tragic slaughter of the Prophet’s grandson Husayn in Karbala. Considering the connection between language, culture, and identity, John Andrew Morrow closes this section with “Arabic‌", an investigation on the importance of Arabic to Islam and Muslims.

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