TEXAS – The Museum of Texas Tech University is currently hosting an exhibition named the “American Qur’an” by southern California painter Sandow Birk, Daily Toreador reported on November 4.
“My project was inspired by traveling to the countries of the Islamic World and research on Islamic arts and manuscripts,” the artist informed.
Taking over a decade to complete, the American Qur’an features hand-transcribed and illustrated verses of the entire holy Qur’an framed by scenes of contemporary American life.
Following the traditions of ancient Islamic manuscripts, Birk’s hand-transcribed the entire English-translated text of the Qur’an as was done in centuries past – following traditional guidelines as to the colors of inks, the formatting of the pages, the size of margins and the illuminations of page headings and medallions marking verses and passages.
His hand-lettered calligraphy uses an American tradition of writing – that of the street letters of urban graffiti that he finds around his Los Angeles neighborhood.
“Adapting the techniques and stylistic devices of Arabic and Persian painting and albums, the project blends the past with the present, the East with the West, creating an American Qur’an,” Brik believes.
He didn’t do it for religious reasons—he’s not a Muslim. Instead, he wanted to undercut cultural prejudices about the scripture, which Americans tend to associate with the Middle East and extremists.
Islam’s Holy Scripture
Selected works from this project are on display in the museum till February 9. The project explores how the religious text resonates with modern Americans and the universality of its principles.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Dr. Abdul Hamood, a researcher at the Tech Health Sciences Center, will give a presentation, Understanding the Qur’an.
Unlike the Gospels of the New Testament – which relate narratives of Jesus’ ministry on earth – the Holy Qur’an is the verbatim words of God as communicated through the angel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the 7th Century CE.
Collected together, the 114 chapters (suras) form a collection of sermon-like revelations that are the fundamental text of Islam, the fastest growing religion in America.
The revelations were received by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Arabic, and the original form of the Qur’an is therefore in Arabic.
The Qur’an is a revelation from God, the creator of the worlds, so He is the original author.
There is only one Qur’an which is in Arabic and many translations of the Qur’an in several languages.
There could be multiple translations by different authors in the same language such as English.
The Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the archangel Gabriel who used to make the Prophet memorize the Qur’an and made him revise it every year in the month of Ramadan, the fasting month.
Memorizing the Holy Qur’an is one of the most important ways to preserve Allah’s message.
The others are to publish and distribute the book, or the text on the Internet and to recite the parts that one knows to other people.