Nick Elitzik

First of all, this book is absolutely beautiful. I lover the color scheme, the little flowers, the neat and lively arabic cursive, the border designs, and the margin spaces, especially the water mark-looking impressions that say to me, this is a book! Much more than plain white pages, these pages give the visceral impression that its pages are filled to the brim with meaning, and every aspect of this book should be treasured.

As for the prayers, the most interesting to me was, “O He who covers up shameful and ugly things, who does not expose them,” (24:5) because it brings illuminates a connection between the themes of beauty and what is hidden, both of which fascinate me. On the one hand, one of the main goals of Ihsan is to pray as if God is right next to you. It is professed that this can be achieved by those with an extraordinary faith (and I presume, imagination), even though God is not apparent in the same way as human beings and all physical reality. And I think one goal of the religion is to discover God in everything. One of the aspects of faith is to believe in things not seen. This begins with an openness to their possibility, and I assume the unseen reality may visually manifest itself for some people. If one of the goals is to find out unseen realities, then why would God cover up the shameful and ugly things in the world? And how does he do it? Islam seems to believe in beautifying the areas of the world where religion is practiced, both the spaces of worship and the internal space of one’s mind and heart, and its followers seek to manifest this reality through its rituals and religious hygiene. Is this how God makes things beautiful? And does God only make things beautiful for His followers? Also, why would he create ugly and shameful things in the world? I’ve heard that the question of Evil (and by extension, impurity) is a test of faith for His followers to struggle with and overcome. But are not ugly and shameful things also expressions of God’s ultimate Reality? If Islam is concerned with Godliness and discovering what is real, why does it feel the need to shield these things from the eyes of the pious? Or maybe it is a political strategy to accrue new converts who have certain conceptions of religious purity and to impress them with its superior standard. Why do people need beauty? And who is it exactly who needs to be shielded from ugliness? My own aesthetic prejudice leads me to believe that it is the spiritually mature who are most able to handle evils, hardships and impurities of every variety. But maybe that is because my worldview accepts ugliness, whereas Islam rejects it? If God is the source and expounder of all truth, why does he have to cover up some things and not others? Is it because ugliness is, in essence, false? Are only beauty and beautiful things truth? Are they the greatest truth? And would God, Himself, not be beyond these Good and Bad, Beauty and Ugly dualities?

“O the physician of hearts,” (11:8)

“O He whose remembrance is the greatest honor for those who remember Him,” (73:1)

“O All-Praiseworthy One, who is, indeed, the sole possessor of all praise and glorification expressed by all beings from the beginning to the end of time,” (75:9)

“O my Lord, who is closer to his servants than their own jugular vein,” (76:10)

“O He who opens all doors,” (98:2)