Naguib Mahfouz’s Zaabalawi Essay

516 Words 3 Pages
Naguib Mahfouz’s Zaabalawi

The Islamic tradition, as reflected in Naguib Mahfouz’s Zaabalawi, has over the course of history had an incredible impact on Arab culture. In Mahfouz’s time, Islamic practices combined with their political relevance proved a source of both great power and woe in Middle Eastern countries. As alluded to in Zaabalawi, Mahfouz asserts the fact that not all Muslims attain religious fulfillment through this common tradition, and other methods outside the scope of Islam may be necessary in true spiritual understanding.

My project emphasizes this spiritual tension by presenting a wineglass inscribed with Qur’anic verses. By examining the purpose and structure of this wineglass, the truth of Mahfouz’s
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In accordance with these symbols of essence, the Qur’anic script around the wineglass also proves applicable to Zaabalawi. It reads, phonetically: “Iqra/ warabbuka al-akramu, Allathee AAallama bialqalami.” Or in English: “Recite in the name of the Lord, who has taught by the pen.” This is a passage from the 96th Surah, Al-A’laq in the Qur’an. Such references to writings and penmanship highlight the importance of calligraphic beauty in such a society.

Muslims believe that it is important to read the Qur’an in Arabic. Their religion teaches that God intentionally presented the holy book to Arabs because their language holds a secret beauty and truth not found in others. Thus, if one is to complete the task of reading the Qur’an, it must be done in Arabic or with a corresponding Arabic text. For this reason, I wrote in Arabic script around the glass because its translation would be incomplete otherwise.

Furthermore, the first command of Allah is “Recite!” This is reflected in the Muslim appreciation for both the oral recitation and visual replication of the Qur’an. Calligraphy, as a creative expression of the Qur’an, has become a predominant art form in many Muslim countries. The calligrapher in Zaabalawi, in fact, has had much contact with true spirituality in his mastery of the Arabic script. Therefore, my act of inscribing Islamic verses would, in their culture, be considered a type of prayer and homage