The Brigham Young University (BYU) Museum of Art, in Provo, Utah, has just welcomed on campus the exhibition Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture, assembled and presented by Dr. Sabiha Al-Khemir. Among the 250 items is a single page of the Blue Qur’an, perfectly rendered by Fatimid craftsmen a millennium ago, bearing verses 109 through 114 of Surat al-Baqarah. Andrew Kosorok, an adjunct sculpture professor at BYU, has been to the exhibition and says that seeing images from the Blue Qur’an online is one thing, but seeing it in person is entirely something else. The following is a letter of gratitude from Andrew Kosorok to the makers of the Blue Qur’an. The letter launches our special series, Thank you letter to an Ismaili Historical Figure, to commemorate the third anniversary of this website.
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29 March, 2012.
Dear Makers of the Blue Qur’an,
Thank you. As an appreciator of beauty I am grateful for your work, as a pilgrim I am grateful for your guidance, as an artist I am grateful for your examples of skill and craftsmanship, and as one trying to listen to the Divine Will, thank you for the hope you give me. I am a Christian, and I am grateful to the Creator of us all that you were inspired, driven, and given the ability to make what you did.
I have seen in person only a single page of your work, and that is filling to my spirit. The Tongue of Angels, although I am unable to read it myself, flows across the page in Kufic script in crystallized transcendence. I am unable to tell what the symbols mean, but I can feel through your work what they mean. The Qur’an is the Bridge between our mortal state and our Creator, a miracle proving the esteem and hope in which the Infinite holds us limited and feeble beings. With your care, setting aside your ego and working only to please your Master, every element of a page I am unable to read communicates this to me. No extra marks were made, but only just enough, and those exactly right; you kept your self from speaking and gave your will to the Shaper of Beauty—and by doing so, gave volume to the voice of the Spirit. It would never mean anything more or different if I could read the symbols written on the page—by your work you have shown me what the words truly signify. God is beautiful and loves beauty, and your work is a thousand-year witness to this eternal truth.
The work of our hands, when we work alone, is fleeting and inadequate. You trained as calligrapher, dyer, paper-maker, and binder, and with all your training refused to work alone. Because of your humility, you became a tool in the hand of the Maker of All, and He blessed you with its use. Thank you for your guidance as I stumble on my own journey, and thank you for showing me that of myself I am nothing—but when I give myself to the Master, He will create something truly marvelous.
Seeking and striving for the still, small voice to guide the work of my hands, you have shown me also that the Master is unwilling to work with unfit servants. To be a better servant, to be a better man, I must refine the skills and talents leased to me. Thank you for showing what true mastery can do; your skills of calligraphy and the book arts did not make this, they prepared the way so God could make this with your hands. Thank you for showing me that talent is not mine to have, but loaned to me that I might hone it, grow it, and share it. God can truly work with any lump or clod of clay, but you show the beauty and hope which comes when we actively prepare ourselves for His working.
Your work, your guidance, and your skill have shown me that those very things which pass away and perish, when used completely in the service of our Creator, give voice and witness to truths which are eternal and everlasting. Thank you for the beauty you share, the hope you give, and the miracle of the Blue Qur’an.
Copyright: Andrew Kosorok/www.Simerg.com, 2012.
About the writer: Andrew Kosorok has been a professional stained glass designer, consultant, and restoration specialist for twenty years, and teaches sculpture, stained glass, and drawing. He has received BFA and MFA degrees in sculpture from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, and has studied philosophy and comparative religions. His stained glass work is in numerous homes and churches, and his sculptural work has been in state, national, and international art competitions. He believes that by examining the act of creation through art, one’s relationship with the Divine can be strengthened. His style is a product of the fusion of his various interests, building objects as records of the ongoing journey of learning and as a means to share the continuing process.
Kosorok’s other piece(s) on this website: 99 Most Beautiful Names – a sculptural presentation of the names for God from the Qur’an
For details about the thank you series and how you can contribute to it please click: Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures.
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Thank you Andrew Kosorok for this most humble appreciation to the Makers of The Fatimid Blue Qur’an. I have seen this beautiful artistic image for the first time and I have no knowledge of any sculpture or art or calligraphy but on close examination even I myself in all humility felt that joy of that hidden beauty of the Creator in this visual graphic.
One thing that I learnt that Truly The Submission to the Universal Creator can be achieved not just not by a named faith or by dogmatic rituals but by multitude of methods and by all humans and creatures.
Many times I encountered this image of the page of the Blue-Quran with inspirations and devotional feelings; but, after encountering your ‘Thank-You-Letter’ my understanding has been enhanced. Thank you for writing this Letter.
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Dear Professor Kosorok
Mary, Mother of Jesus, was not a Christian or a Muslim in the modern sense of the word – and yet she is portrayed as an example for all mankind in The Holy Qur’an.
I am grateful to the Creator of us all. Faith has no language barriers – Sanskrit, Arabic, Latin or Simple English – because it transcends intellect, space and time. Is one [ i.e. the soul ] not eternal ?
Many years back, I wrote about THE POSTURES OF ADORATION IN ISLAM. I share a couple of verses.
BLESSED IS HE WHO TAUGHT HIS RIGHTEOUS SERVANT – KING SOLOMON –
THE LANGUAGE OF THE BIRDS AND THE HUMBLE ANT.
BLESSED IS HE WHO TAUGHT ME ISLAM IN SIMPLE ENGLISH BECAUSE
HE KNEW I DID NOT UNDERSTAND ARABIC …
The Lord works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. May He guide your hands to reveal His Beauty – through your art – and may He bestow upon you The Gift of The Pen – to write in His Praise.
This article provides great knowledge, and your art work is excellent. May your faith in God continue to provide you with even greater wisdom and deeper spiritual insights, so that you may continue to inspire us with more wonderful works of art.
What a contribution via the art medium you are a specialist of, Mr Kosorok. I have seen your previous contribution before, again via simerg.com.
Thank you Dr. Kosorok for a most insightful explanation of your feelings. They touched me deeply in terms of your understanding of this important text without being able to read it and your humility in explaining the blessings of the Maker in guiding the hand of the artist.
With deep appreciation,
For me your reflections on the makers of the blue qur’an represent a short but insightful study in the ethic of humility and its benefits. Those amongst us today who are talented enough to create enduring works such as this marvellous blue qur’an or who have the brilliance of discovering the marvels of God’s creation have to have the same approach as you so eloquently articulate, “I am nothing—but when I give myself to the Master, He will create something truly marvelous.” Submission and humility are the traditional teachings of all the great faiths, and Islam itself represents it by its meaning.
A truly magnificent piece, rich in wisdom. Thank you and all the best to you in your endeavours.