AbstractThe research described in this thesis employs literary research, study of scripture and Islamic scholarship, reflexive art-making and qualitative interview-based research to clarify the basic rules which govern the lawfulness and unlawfulness of figurative representation in Islam, with specific reference to the Sunni tradition in Kuwait.
While figurative representation (taswir) was and still is a controversial issue in Islamic culture, Kuwaiti art education remains mute on its relation to both curriculum and research. This muteness is problematic. Yet, many Kuwaiti (Muslim) artists are practising figurative art. By doing so, they either ignore or reject their own culture and at the same time put themselves at moral risk. This thesis argues that this ignorance or rejection is a result of the absence of clear and detailed guidance from the jurist Ulama (Muslim jurist theologians) about the lawfulness and unlawfulness of figurative representation in Islam.
By reviewing and examining the three sources of religious knowledge, the Qur'an, the Prophet's traditions (hadiths), and the opinion of the jurist theologians, it becomes clear that the Qur'an prohibits worshipping idols, yet not the making of figurative representation. However, in the traditions of the Prophet Mohammad, the prohibition is apparent, although there are variations of pronouncements on this issue: in some of them the prohibition is clearly directed at the image-makers, and in some of them the prohibition is expressed in an indirect way, while in yet others there is permission given for some kind of figurative representation. These different utterances by the Prophet have led to disagreement among the jurist Ulama, some of whom prohibit making any kind of figurative representation, whilst others permit the making of two dimensional figures under certain conditions.
In the qualitative component of this study, in order to understand and then to explore the boundaries of making two dimensional figurative artworks within Islamic law, I have conducted two rounds of in-depth interviews with four Ulama (Kuwaiti Sunni Muslim jurist scholars). In the first round of interviews, I used an 'oral-interview' method to collect initial data on the issue under investigation. After that, and based on my understandings of the boundaries set by the jurist Ulama, I developed 16 figurative artworks examining different positions in preparation for the second round of interviews. Finally, I re-interviewed the same Muslim jurist scholars using an 'image-interview' method to explore the boundaries of making two dimensional figurative artworks.
The study has resulted in specific guidelines which may be applied to support decision-making on what the boundaries are of what is halal (lawfulness) and what is haram (unlawfulness) in the field of figurative art-making. The thesis concludes by making proposals for applying these guidelines to the major of art education in Kuwait, especially to the curriculum of art education at the College of Basic Education, as this college is the only one which provides Kuwaiti schools with art teachers.
|Date of Award||Jun 2010|