This surah speaks about Allah (s) being hidden from our understanding by a screen or hidden from ourselves by a lack of faith or understanding. This is the excuse of some people who do not believe. In Islam we do not have representational art that depicts God. There is even a great deal of controversy surrounding the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad (s) although he is frequently shown in a respectful manner in Persian miniatures. This surah gives us the opportunity to speak to children about abstraction in Islamic Art as a way of describing the beauty of the unknowable God. In this series we have approached the illumination of Quran with as much representation as is possible and respectful. In this image we attempt to show that the screen of beautifully carved plasterwork veils us from seeing God, which would be dangerous for a human to behold but suggests the beauty of God like a light in a lamp with a shade. This more abstract concept of sacred things is important and part of Islamic history and art just as some forms or representational art are as well. Abstraction is a more complicated concept and better suited to the mind of a young adult who has already learned the content and meaning of Quran and can look for higher and more abstract meanings within the text with the help of legitimate Tafseer from a knower. I hope that we can attempt to put together a Tafseer for young adults that brings a deeper understanding than this elementary project at another time.
Discussion question: Is there is a screen between us and Allah (s)? Is Allah (s) closer to us than our own jugular vein? Is separation between us and Allah (s) an illusion? Are there people who are veiled from belief in Allah (s)?
In the story of Musa (a) he asks to see Allah (s) and nearly dies from seeing the veiled light of Allah (s). If you would like to read this story to your child to have a better understanding of this subject in Islam there is a chapter concerning him in My Little Lore of Light by Hajjah Amina Adil.
Discussion question: what happened when Musa (a) asked to see Allah (s)? Why does some Islamic Art sometimes avoid images of people and animals? Why does other Islamic Art show images of Prophets etc.? What do you think about showing sacred things in art? Do you think there is a respectful way to show people and animals in art? Do you think that a mosque is a place where abstract art is more appropriate? Why?
Please share your ideas for teaching children about the Tafseer of Quran.