As I go forward with this blog I am going to try to cast a spotlight on various paintings I have done and try to delve into the ideas and inspiration behind them. This will be the first of these "Painting in Focus" posts.
For those of us who follow the Islamic faith, this (at the time of writing this post) is the month of Ramadan. A month of fasting and abstaining from those bad habits that we have. It is a month of spiritually reconnecting to our creator and asking for forgiveness for our sins. It is a period of reflection. When our focus is on reading and pondering the verses of the Quran.
The last ten days of the month are when Muslims step up their game. They double their efforts and increase in their devotion for it is believed that within these nights will be Lailatul Qadr. In English, this means the Night of Power or the Night of Decree. My Painting Lailatul Qadr (Night of Power) painted in 2013 was directly inspired by this concept.
The painting focuses on the holy Kabah which is the direction that all Muslims face when they pray their five daily Salat. This direction is not only a command from the creator of the worlds for the direction in our salat (prayer). It is also symbolic of there being only one true God. The different nationalities that make up this Umah (Muslim Society) turn their faces in ONE direction. Focusing their prayers on Allah who is ONE. From where ever they are in the world they all face this ONE central Location, The Holy Kabah, in Mecca, modern day Saudi Arabia.
The use of the Kabah in the painting is also symbolic. Mecca was the birthplace of Prophet Mohamed. It is said that the Qurans first revelation occurred on the Night of Power. The Prophet was in the habit of withdrawing himself from society to spend the month of Ramadan in the cave of Hira in Mount Nur. It was on this night that by Allah's decree the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) appeared to Mohamed and commanded him to Iqra! ( Read or Recite in English)
Mohamed was illiterate. He could not read or write. He replied, "I can not read." So the angel grabbed and squeezed him until he thought he was going to die. Jibril released Mohamed and repeated his command twice more. after this, the first verse of the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohamed:
Surah Al-Alaq "Read! In the Name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists), Has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, who has taught (the writing) by the pen, Has taught man that which he knew not. Nay! Verily, man does transgress all bounds (in disbelief and evil deed, etc.). Because he considers himself self-sufficient. Surely! Unto your Lord is the return."
It is with this initial ayat that Allah began to send down the last revelation to mankind and according to Islamic belief confirmed Islam as his religion. The Nigth of Power is also a night that is better than eighty years of devotion and prayer it is believed that on this night Allah proves that he is the most merciful:
Surah 97. Al-Qadr. “We have indeed revealed this message in the Night of Power: And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months! Therein come down the angels by Allah’s permission on every errand: Peace! Until the rising of the dawn.”
It is believed that the mercy of Almighty Allah descends on this night. Those who spend this time in devotion are sure to be rewarded with a reward better than that of 1000 months of continuous devotion.
The secondary focus of the painting is the moon rising behind the Kabah. The moon is a mercy to mankind. Its magnetic gravitational pull controls, by the grace of Allah, the tides. Its changing lunar cycle also gives us the method of calculating the Islamic Calendar. Without it, we would not be able to determine the changing months and know when it is Ramadan.
The night is depicted as being clear and bright with the light of the Full Moon. Still and clear and full of mercy. At the bottom of the painting, the night is getting lighter. Alluding to the impending rising of the dawn that signifies the end of this night of mercy for another year.
It is a painting that is steeped in symbolism. My humble attempt to catch on canvas the imagery that Surah Al-Qadr brings to my mind. What are your thoughts? Why not join the conversation in the comments below.