Aisha's Cushion: Religious Art, Perception, and Practice in Islam

Aisha's Cushion: Religious Art, Perception, and Practice in Islam

by Jamal J. Elias
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0674058062

ISBN-13: 9780674058064

Pub. Date: 11/15/2012

Publisher: Harvard

Media coverage of the Danish cartoon crisis and the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan left Westerners with a strong impression that Islam does not countenance depiction of religious imagery. Jamal J. Elias corrects this view by revealing the complexity of Islamic attitudes toward representational religious art. Aisha’s Cushion emphasizes

Overview

Media coverage of the Danish cartoon crisis and the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan left Westerners with a strong impression that Islam does not countenance depiction of religious imagery. Jamal J. Elias corrects this view by revealing the complexity of Islamic attitudes toward representational religious art. Aisha’s Cushion emphasizes Islam’s perceptual and intellectual modes and in so doing offers the reader both insight into Islamic visual culture and a unique way of seeing the world.

Aisha’s Cushion evaluates the controversies surrounding blasphemy and iconoclasm by exploring Islamic societies at the time of Muhammad and the birth of Islam; during early contact between Arab Muslims and Byzantine Christians; in medieval Anatolia and India; and in modern times. Elias’s inquiry then goes further, to situate Islamic religious art in a global context. His comparisons with Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu attitudes toward religious art show them to be as contradictory as those of Islam. Contemporary theories about art’s place in society inform Elias’s investigation of how religious objects have been understood across time and in different cultures.

Elias contends that Islamic perspectives on representation and perception should be sought not only in theological writings or aesthetic treatises but in a range of Islamic works in areas as diverse as optics, alchemy, dreaming, calligraphy, literature, vehicle and home decoration, and Sufi metaphysics. Unearthing shades of meaning in Islamic thought throughout history, Elias offers fresh insight into the relations among religion, art, and perception across a broad range of cultures.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674058064
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
11/15/2012
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Table of Contents

Preface on Abbreviations and Conventions ix

Prologue: The Promise of a Meaningful Image 1

1 Representation, Resemblance, and Religion 27

2 The Icon and the Idol 43

3 Iconoclasm, Iconophobia, and Islam 84

4 Idols, Icons, and Images in Islam 100

5 Beauty, Goodness, and Wonder 139

6 Alchemy, Appearance, and Essence 175

7 Dreams, Visions, and the Imagination 198

8 Sufism and the Metaphysics of Resemblance 216

9 Words, Pictures, and Signs 236

10 Legibility, Iconicity, and Monumental Writing 264

Epilogue 284

Notes 291

Bibliography 349

Acknowledgments 393

Index 395

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