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Hakim Murad on Ka'ba & Malevich's "Black Square"


This majestic and serene painting above is known as the Black Square by Kazimir Malevich, a Russian painter (who died in 1935). It is a very fascinating painting i have seen for years. Abdul Hakim Murad writes about it at length: "Malevich’s greatest work is a painting called Black Square. This is a square, painted completely in black, against a white border. He called it his ‘absolute symbol of modernity’, a modernity which he hoped would be pure and spiritual, as opposed to the congealed decadence of 19th-century Western materialism.

He chose the image of a Black Square because it is the total inversion of the Western tradition of recording the writhing diversity of the manifest world. He wrote, later, that when painting it he felt ‘black nights within’, and ‘a timidity bordering on fear’, but when he neared completion he experienced a ‘blissful sensation of being drawn into a desert where nothing is real but feeling, and feeling became the substance of my life.’

What on earth could this mean? The modern British writer Bruce Chatwin, who knew Islam well, commented as follows:

‘This is not the language of a good Marxist, but of Meister Eckhart - or, for that matter, of Mohammed. Malevich’s Black Square, his ‘absolute symbol of modernity’, is the equivalent
in painting of the black-draped Ka‘ba at Mecca, the shrine in a valley of sterile soil where
all men are equal before God.’
[...]

At the centre of the Islamic religion lies the Ka‘ba. Uniting the aspects of the divine beauty and the divine majesty, it is a place of resort and safety for human beings’. It lies in a city protected by the prayer of Ibrahim al-Khalil, alayhi’l-salam: ‘My Lord, make this land a sanctuary.’

The Ka‘ba has many meanings. One of these pertains to the Black Stone, which is the point at which the pilgrims come closest to its mystery.

‘Ali ibn Abi Talib narrated that when God took the Covenant, He recorded it in writing
and fed it to the Black Stone, and this is the meaning of the saying of those who touch
the Black Stone during the circumambulation of the Ancient House: ‘O God! This is
believing in You, fulfilling our pledge to You, and declaring the truth of Your record.’’
The Ka‘ba therefore, while it is nothing of itself - a cube of stones and mortar - represents and reminds its pilgrims of the primordial moment of our kind. Allah speaks of a time before the creation of the world: ‘when your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their reins, their seed,
and made them testify of themselves, He said: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said, ‘Yea!
We testify!’ That was lest you should say on the Day of Arising: ‘Of this we were
unaware.’’ (7:171)
When we visit the House, we are therefore invited to remember the Great Covenant: that forgotten moment when we committed ourselves to our Maker, acknowleding Him as the source of our being. The Black Stone itself is, according to a hadith which Imam Tirmidhi declares to be sound, ‘yaqutatun min yawaqit al-janna’ - a gemstone from Paradise itself.

The Ka‘ba functions, in the imagination of those who visit it on Hajj, or turn towards it in Salat, as the centre and point of origin of all diverse things on earth. It is oriented towards the four cardinal points of the compass. Its blackness recalls the blackness of the night sky, of the heavens, and hence the pure presence of the Creator. Allah tells us that there are signs for us in the heavens and the earth; and recent astronomy affirms that the spiral galaxies are revolving around black holes. A powerful symbol, written into the magnificence of space, of the spiritual vortex which beckons us to spiral into the unknown, where quantum mechanics fail, where time and space are no more.

The yearning for the Ka‘ba which sincere Muslims feel whenever they think of it is therefore not, in fact, a yearning for the building. In itself it is no less part of the created order than anything else in creation. The yearning is, instead, a fragment, a breath of the nostalgia for our point of origin, for that glorious time out of time when we were in our Maker’s presence."

Read the rest of the article here.

3 did criticisms:

Anonymous said...

This is amazing thanks for posting

Rhodora Online said...

MashAllah. Amazing how astronomy, spirituality and the exploration of one's intuitive feelings through art are linked together here..

Rhodora Online said...

MashAllah. Amazing how astronomy, spirituality and the exploration of one's intuitive feelings through art are linked together here..

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