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Shi’i Symbolism in the Art of Komail Aijazuddin

Komail Aijazuddin is a Pakistani artist, who often explores religious themes and issues of divinity in his work. A graduate of Studio Art and Art History from New York University, he employs a style of painting that is described as ‘cold-war baroque’ and his depictions often times show Shi’i imagery which are informed by his personal background and observations during the Muharram mourning season.
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Shi’isms : Misconceptions and Misrepresenations

Recently a friend, a devout Muslim, a highly educated and well-placed professional working on the Wall Street, complained about the ‘incredible’ amount of Muharram related emails and updates that she was receiving through her social media and email. She also wondered aloud why she was receiving these messages and updates because while she was connected with various ‘Islamic’ platforms and organization, she does not subscribe to any ‘Shia’ networks. Before trashing these messages off as spam, because they ‘did not make sense’ to her at all, she then offered to forward some to me because I could better make use of this information as a ‘Shia’ who ‘worshipped these people’.

      Curious to see who the people I supposedly worshipped were, on my request she showed me an email recounting the ‘Trials and Tribulations of Imam Zain-ul-Abideen’.  The hagiographical tone and language as well as the names of the religious personalities or groups like the Ahle-Bayt were all alien to my friend and she reacted with some surprise when told that Imam Zain-ul-Abideen was only the fancy title of the Prophet’s great-grandson, the son of Imam Hussain. More astonishment followed when I specified that the Shias , like all Muslims, ‘worshipped’ only God but upheld the Prophet and his family with great devotion and reverence. When I pointed out to her that Sunni Muslims were also obliged to show veneration for the Prophet’s family or the Ahle-Bayt based on numerous records from Sunni traditions where the Prophet implores all his followers to show devotion to his family, she was simply tongue-tied. Continue reading

‘Foremost in Faith’

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This recently published book titled ‘Foremost in Faith’ is based on a collection of lectures delivered by Maulana Syed Mohammed Jafar Zaidi Shaheed,  who was a leading Shia scholar from the subcontinent.  His original lectures, which were delivered in Urdu language, have now been translated into English by Syeda Batool Shahid Zulfiqar Ali. In this context, the recent translation of these lectures is very noteworthy as it allows access for the younger generation, who are not very well versed with Urdu and also are not very familiar with the thought provoking discussion and deliberations of Maulana Jafar.

This publication also presents the acknowledgements and appreciations of contemporary Shia scholars from the subcontinent like Allama Syed Muntazir Abbas and Allama Talib Johari who describes Syed Jafar Zaidi as ‘a man draped in the garb of wisdom and knowledge’. It also carries special appreciatory remarks by Ayatollah Syed Aqeel Gharavi who praises Syed Jafar Zaidi as ‘an extremely reliable custodian of pure Islamic culture and values’ and also as ‘a harbinger to later generations of these humanistic as well as futuristic traditions with total scientific integrity and complete scholastic responsibility.’  Maulana Jafar was assassinated in 1980 by extremist sectarian outfits in Pakistan.

The compilation includes five lectures which are all a critique and commentary on five Ayats from the Quran. The five Ayats discussed in detail in these lectures are Ayat e Vilayat, Ayat e Mawaddat, Ayat e Tatheer, Ayat e Nusrat and Surah al Asr.  Another additional lecture, which focuses on Prophet Muhammad, is more of a hagiographical account that presents the Prophet as Syed ul Anbia ( Leader of the Prophets).

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