The Praiseworthy One: Devotional Images of the Prophet Muhammad in Islamic Traditions

Shahzia Sikander, and Christiane Gruber in Conversation with Alex Dika Seggerman at Rutgers University

31 January 2020

This presentation by Christiane Gruber explores a number of paintings of the Prophet Muhammad produced in Persian and Turkish lands from the fourteenth century to the modern-day. Ranging from veristic to abstract, these images represent Muhammad’s individual traits, primordial luminosity, and veiled essence. Their pictorial motifs reveal that artists engaged in abstract thought and turned to symbolic motifs in order to imagine Muhammad’s primordial origins and prophetic standing. In creating and gazing upon such images, artists and viewers also were inspired by various mystical beliefs and practices, including devotional invocation, in the process seeking to express their piety through both verbal and pictorial language. Within a variety of Islamic expressive cultures, paintings thus have functioned as a powerful means for devotional engagement with Muhammad, the “praiseworthy” Prophet and Messenger of Islam.

Shahzia Sikander is a contemporary artist who lives and works in New York City. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, she was educated at the National College of Arts in Lahore and the Rhode Island School of Design. Working in the media of performance art, sculpture, video projection, and digital animation, she incorporates her training in traditional Indo-Persian miniature painting into a conceptual art idiom.

A MacArthur Grant recipient (2006), she has exhibited globally and her artwork has been acquired by museums worldwide.

Christiane Gruber is Professor of Islamic Art and Associate Chair in the History of Art Department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research interests span medieval Islamic art to contemporary visual culture. She has authored three books and has edited a dozen volumes on Islamic book arts, ascension texts and images, images of the Prophet Muhammad, and modern visual and material culture.

Moderated by Alex Dika Seggerman


Friday, January 31, 2020 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm
John Cotton Dana Library

Dana Room, 4th Floor Dana Library
185 University Ave
Newark, NJ 07102

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