This piece was inspired by The Prophetic Succession, a section of Suleyman Celebi’s Turkish poem, Mevlid-i Sharif, which describes the transmission of God’s light through all of the great prophets. The poem underscores the idea that this light makes its truest manifestation in the Prophet Muhammad, but that it is the same light that is passed down from Adam and Eve and to other prominent figures in Judaism and Christianity. I was struck by this imagery, and by the idea that so many of the major religions are deeply interconnected and dependent upon one another for completion.
Additionally, I was intrigued by Professor Asani’s “Infidel of Love: Exploring Muslim Understandings of Islam” in which he outlines common misconceptions of Islam and emphasizes the true tenants of the faith to be peace and social justice. Every major religion, to some extent has known similar misconceptions from outsiders and deviations from its core values by proclaimed “followers.”
The focus of the piece is a composite face that is (from left to right) of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Moses is depicted in pencil, Jesus in watercolor, and Muhammad in acrylic paint in an effort to show how in the Islamic tradition, the message of God was manifested partly through Moses, became clearer as time went on through prophets like Jesus, and became full through the last prophet, Muhammad. Muhammad’s face is not depicted, both to avoid the controversy surrounding the sensitive practice and because the gold acrylic paint used in lieu of his face best reflects the light, just as Muhammad fully reflects the light of God. Above them, I have combined the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic words for peace into one, to demonstrate that peace and love were the central messages of all of these prophets, and though they look slightly different due to context and geography, the meaning is the same. Surprisingly, both the pronunciations (Shlomo, Shlama, and Salam, respectively) and the characters are fairly similar in all languages.
The central theme of the piece is that Muhammad’s message of peace does not contradict the messages of those that came before him, but rather that it must be combined with prior revelations to create a fuller picture of God’s intended message, and only truly makes sense in the context of the messages of the previous prophets.