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

Jamal J. Elias. Harvard Univ., $35 (432p) ISBN 978-0-674-05806-4
Countering the popular perception of Islam as wholly disapproving of representational art, Elias, a professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, lays bare the complexity inherent in Islamic attitudes toward religious art. The book is thorough in its investigation of everything, including early Christian and Jewish attitudes toward representational art and representation of idolatry in early Muslim scholarship, especially philosophy and the sciences; the religious functions of beauty; Arabic calligraphy; and the notion of writing as an image. Elias’s careful, dedicated scholarship acknowledges prior work while venturing into new ground in both art history and Islamic studies, and is as much a work of semiotics as history, as Elias is not naïve about the difficulties of constructing meaning from visual images and their place in religion. The book may be somewhat dense for the lay reader, but in its exploration of a non-Western approach to semiotics and visual culture, as well as its detailed explication of Islamic history and Muslim practices and scholarship, it deserves to be regarded as a new classic in the field of religious studies. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/10/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 425 pages - 978-0-674-06739-4
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