Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Beauty in Islam

I'm intrigued by sartorial aspects of Islam, the way they both invite and forbid the gaze, in the mirror of the Western imagination. The mirror fetishizes the veil -- as the symbol of not only manifest oppression but also secret sexuality, a harem that is haram and haraam as it were -- in particular and makes it a synecdoche for the whole Islamic tradition, a mirror image of the Islamist imagination.

What should a feminist, especially a Muslim feminist, do? Don't look into the Western and Islamist mirrors. Instead, play with Orientalism and Occidentalism in aesthetic elaboration of Islamic civilization, inventing a new tradition of beauty in Islam and defamiliarizing it at the same time.
A man who was beautiful came to the Prophet (peace be upon him). He said: Apostle of Allah, I am a man who likes beauty, and I have been given some of it, as you see. And I do not like that anyone excels me (in respect of beauty). . . . Is it pride? He replied: No, pride is disdaining what is true and despising people. -- Sunan Abu-Dawud, 32.4081

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