Friday, August 16, 2013 at 3:51 AM

 Johan Ishak
Oil on Canvas
4 Panels of 25.4cm X 25.4cm
16 - 18 August 2013
Shah Alam

Islamic art has always glorified Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) via calligraphy (khat). Some are not inclined to use objects and realism techniques to paint Islamic matters particularly figurative art. It seems that many scholars have given guidance that we should just stick with vegetation and flowers. For me, it is all about the intentions (niat). When I paint the elephant, I am not asking people to pray to the elephant. I am not equating the elephant to that of Ganesha in Hinduism or that of Siamese Buddhism icons.

If Muslims know that history, they will straight away relate to the Year of Elephant when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born. That year a king by the name of Abrahah sent an army with elephants to crush the holy place of worshipping of the Arabs, the Kaabah. God sent a group of Ababil, a type of bird, to drop fired stones onto those elephants to stop this madness. Approximately 50 days subsequent to that event, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born. This was retold in a Quranic verse Al-Fil (The Elephant) which is the Arabic script written on the Kaabah in my art work.

As you can see, my work here tries to re-tell the history. The spider for example. It reminds us all to Hijrah, the migration of Muslims from Makkah to Madinah. The Prophet was hunted by assassins during the migration. He has to hide in a cave. God had protected him by having spiders to cover the mouth of the cave with its webs. The assassins did not even bother checking the cave as those webs were too elaborate to suggest that someone is hiding inside the cave. Finally the moon. When accused of being a false prophet, the Arabs demanded him to show powers that was demonstrated by prophets before him. I guess they must have imagined Moses splitting the Red Sea as documented in the Bible. Instead, Prophet Muhammad split the moon. 


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