Wednesday, January 5, 2011

William Chittick on Beauty

Yesterday on the Huffington Post, Professor Chittick blogged about The Notion of Beauty in Islam. Here is an excerpt (w/some gender modifications, sorry I couldn't resist)...

Anyone with the vaguest knowledge of Islamic culture knows that it has produced extraordinary works of art and architecture -- Persian miniatures, the Taj Mahal, the Alhambra. Few are aware, however, that this rich artistic heritage is firmly rooted in a worldview that highlights love and beauty.

The link between love and beauty is clear. We love what we find beautiful. Beauty attracts, ugliness repels. Nor are beauty and ugliness simply physical characteristics. We all know people who are outwardly attractive but personally repellent, and vice versa.

Beauty makes a massive appearance in love poetry like that of Ibn al-Farid, Rumi, Yunus Emre, and countless others. Their verses stir up wonder and delight by evoking the beautiful characteristics of the beloved....

Those with a more theological bent preferred to cite the saying of the Prophet, "God is beautiful, and s/he loves beauty." They understood both beauty and love in terms of the axiom of tawhid, "There is no god but God." If God is beautiful, then there is nothing truly beautiful but God. And if God is loving, then no one truly loves but he.

...As for the universe, God loves it because, by loving her/himself, s/he loves everything demanded by her/his beauty and mercy, and that includes an infinity of creaturely possibilities. This view was encapsulated in the oft-quoted divine saying, "I was a Hidden Treasure, and I loved to be recognized, so I created the creatures to recognize Me."
God loves the way things are because "S/He made beautiful everything S/He created" (Quran 32:7). All things are lovable because they make her/his beauty manifest. Each thing plays its own harmonious role in the infinite web of relationships that the Quran calls God's "signs." The signs in turn display the characteristics of what it calls God's "most beautiful names."
God loves the way things ought to be because s/he created human beings with freedom to change themselves. Unique among all things in the universe -- so far as we know -- human beings have the capacity to recognize themselves as works in progress and to intervene in the manner in which they develop.
Read the entire post, along with links to some of Chittick's books, here:

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