Over the past several years, Michigan-born artist Sandow Birk has turned his interest and extensive travels in the Islamic world into a project to transcribe by hand an English-translated text of the 114 suras, or chapters, of the Qur'an. While adhering to traditional guidelines for formatting the text, he adds his own scenes of everyday Americana, uniting on the page what some believe to be mutually distinct, even opposing and irreconcilable, ways of life.
This suite of drawings, acquired by the College in July of this year and presented here for the first time, is comprised of chapters 36 and 37. In his Op-Ed piece in The New York Times on Wednesday, September 8, Faisal Abdul Rauf, Chairman of the Cordoba Initiative and the imam of the Farah mosque in Lower Manhattan, cited chapter 36 in his call for reflection and meditation to commemorate the upcoming anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001:
The very word “islam” comes from a word cognate to shalom, which means peace in Hebrew. The Koran declares in its 36thchapter, regarded by the Prophet Muhammad as the heart of theKoran, in a verse deemed the heart of this chapter, “Peace is a word spoken from a merciful Lord.”
Human history teaches us — if we've paid attention — that violence and degradation wear many faces, fly all flags, and defile every creed. The absence of conscience is a void, the path out of which is lit by education, trod by experience, and cleared for those who follow us by sheer force of will.
Daniel StrongAssociate Director and Curator of Exhibitions, Faulconer Gallery