A Glimpse of Islamic Heritage


Ali Omar Ermes, Monday 10 September 2001


As part of the events linked to ‘Islam UK’ the BBC’s Islam Season, and hosted by the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) and the Centre for Near and Middle East Studies (SOAS), Arab artist Ali Omar Ermes presented a slide show entitled ‘A Glimpse of Islamic Heritage’.

The slide show consisted of around 150 photographs, taken over the last 30 years by Ali Omar Ermes himself, each one showing an example of the vast heritage and history of Islam.

Here is the talk in full for your convenience:

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

The Islamic greeting says: Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmet Allahi wa barakatu, which means peace be upon you all.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In introducing this talk, I want to say to you that, I only speak for myself, and I only express my point of view, as far as I understand Islam in its entirety, and I see its practical means of implementation when dealing with arts, science and thought. Of which is based on firm directions and guidance, given by Allah, God All-Mighty through the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and implemented by the efforts of people in all walks of life.

Furthermore, I want to say that the examples that I, God willing, will show you on the screen are few among many where, they only give a general idea and are not specific examples in themselves, to prove one Islamic theory against the other, or non-Islamic theory for that matter. As Islamic Arts receives its inspiration from the Muslim understanding of Islam, in its unifying ways between theory and practice, so it is not surprising to find that their concentrated effort is to make what they think is going to be a benefit to humanity. And not for the purpose of proving some philosophical theories which could have meant to create a followings, trying hard to prove its value, and in dealing with the natural order in its purest form. In the sense that what is more important, to improve human condition by being a part of it and to grow it or to replicate nature and have so many uncompleted miniatures of self possessed little people? If this sounds complicated, I did not mean it to be but I always blame my English.

Therefore, you will find that I am going to be mixing items from my own art with other examples of photographs of Islamic art such as architecture, calligraphy, silk, carpet weaving, ceramics, glass, marble and wood engraving etc. All these mixed with photogenic scenery and beautiful colours, shapes and forms of flowers, trees, land, seas, terrain, mountains etc. As all of these are the works of Allah Al Wahid, Al Ahad – the One and the Only who created all this which is impossible to replicate, copy or to reverse. It is the power to grasp; to hold, imagine and dream to which Allah All-Mighty gave to humanity in dealing with this creation. To enjoy, behold and take part in order for it to work together in harmony and contrast. To appreciate all His creations between the Heavens and Earth or around vast areas of this exceedingly large universe, through light and dark, day and night and for all this until Allah changes, takes away or displaces it as He pleases. Not only by His direct act but also indirectly by what His creations (mankind being one example) can produce in art, science or thought. Of what we now know, use, enjoy or hear about, and as we expect a lot more in future advancements of which we did not know before. Does this sound like a sermon? If it does, we can all say Amen!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I want you to excuse me if this talk is not the normal type, where the academic routine is the dominant style of conduct either in its material or the way it has been put forward.

Therefore, I might start with a subject and move away from it through pictures and comments or extracts from text between furthest of lands. From the far East to the far West, or from one type of expression in art to others of thought or from man-made art to Allah’s made nature. I hope you will like it and enjoy the fun of it, if I do well, all thanks is due to Allah Subhana wa taala, if otherwise, then I am to blame.

So let us sail along with Allah’s help.