Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Friday, January 22, 2021

Reviving Beauty, Criticality, Creativity in Muslims' Imagination - Shaykh Hamza Yusuf - Youtube Lecture & Text- PDF

Reviving Beauty, Criticality, Creativity in Muslims' Imagination - Shaykh Hamza Yusuf -Muis Academy , Singapore-Public Lecture March 2017,

ON BEAUTY, LANGUAGE AND POETRY Alḥamd lī Allāh (Praise and Gratitude be to Allah) These days we are almost compelled to make things beautiful and what does that mean? When I was in West Africa, I was struck by the fact that this Big pen became very widespread in Sahara, Mauritania where I studied. But people always embellished it with coloured leather strips as a cover and I asked, “why?” and they said that they thought that the Big pen was ugly. So they wanted to embellish it and make it beautiful. That was interesting because one of the things about Western culture now - even though we traditionally have a real love of beauty - is that much of it has become very ugly and very functional. In fact now for clothes, wealthy people actually spend an extraordinary amount of money for rags – clothes that have holes in them; so that many people now, instead of adorning themselves and their clothes, as most traditional cultures have, including the Melayu (Malay) culture, with beautiful embroidery or colour, now they actually relish a type of ugliness in their clothes. For the first time in human history people wear underwear as just clothes to wear outside like T-shirts. T-shirts were traditionally underwear. So one of the fascinating things about modern people is that we are losing our sense of beauty. For me that is a dangerous indication of where we are going, as a species, and as a civilisation. The most beautiful thing that human beings have is language. And the most beautiful language that we had historically was poetry and every culture is built upon poetry. There is no human civilisation that does not have poetry at the foundation of its civilisation. Plato and Aristotle do not exist without the great poetry of Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey. It was the great poetry of the Elizabethan English that enabled the King James’ Bible to come into existence. And even though, as Muslims, we believe the Qurʾān is the eternal word of God, nonetheless Arabic poetry reached its pinnacle at the moment the Qurʾān was revealed. Because the Qurʾān cannot be understood without incredible linguistic skills. And so there is a reason why nobody in the history of Islam has ever reproduced the poetry of the Pagan (jāhilī) Arabs. It is considered the pinnacle of Arabic languageOne of the hallmarks of modern society is the loss of poetry and this is another very deep sign that something is wrong with us as a species. In my country, there is something called “rap,” which undeniably has a poetic element to it, but one of the things about traditional poetry is, it was always a rigorous discipline and some people had it naturally, as in oral cultures, but generally it was something that had to be studied - what they called porosity (the science of metrics) and this is true in all cultures that have a metrical poetry that is either related to accent or time. And these are the two interesting things about language.The English language is largely spoken in Iambic accent, a light-heavy alternation in stress. Shakespeare largely wrote in Iambic pentameter. A lot of people who read Shakespeare do not realise that it is poetry because it is so natural. “To be or not to be, that is the question.” People do not realise that it is actually beautifully metered in an Iambic pentameter because it is the natural way that we speak. And so there is something about the beauty of language that poetry is an aspiration of every civilisation. And poets were incredibly honoured in cultures. With the great poets of Arabia, the tribes would celebrate the birth of a poet, because they were elevated by their poetry. It was something that was very, very important. Arguably one of the last great poets in American civilisation was Robert Frost, who was honoured by Kennedy at his presidential inauguration because he had a great love of poetry and educated people traditionally were forced to study poetry. One of the important things that I am seeing in the world is this loss of the rigour of poetry and the meanings that were infused in it. When language is honoured, poetry is honoured, and the reverse holds true, when language is denigrated, poetry loses its importance in its society; people lose interest in poetry. However, that is unfortunate, as poets have much to tell us. According to Abd al-Qādir al-Jazā’irī (1808 – 1883), the great Algerian Shaykh, the reason that prophets were called poets (shāʿir) is because no one other than a poet has a type of inspiration that is very close to revelation. There is a fine line between the inspiration of a true poet and somebody who receives verse. A true poet, an inspired poet, is also somebody who has inspiration from God and this is why the language of revelation is always an exalted language. Because it is a fine line between the two, God made the distinction explicit, otherwise, according to Abd al-Qādir al-Jazā’irī, they can be easily confused. Thus the “Qurʾān” is not poetry – for Allah says, “We did not give him (Muhammad) knowledge of poetry, nor is it befitting for him” (Q: 36:69).


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home