Prepared by Majd Musa and Mohammad al-Asad
(1) Oleg Grabar is Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Many view him as the most influential historian of Islamic art and architecture of our day. His many publications include The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996); The Mediation of Ornament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992); The Great Mosque of Isfahan (New York: New York University Press, 1990); The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650 - 1250 (Harmondworth: Penguin Books, 1987; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001); The Formation of Islamic Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987); The Illustrations of the Maqamat (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984); and The Alhambra (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978).
Oleg Grabar (Source: Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)
(3) Hassan Fathy (1900 - 1989) is an Egyptian architect and writer on architecture. He is best known for his work on traditional design and construction methods and materials. His New Gourna Village project (constructed between 1946 and 1953), which is considered his most important project, is representative of his work methodology. The project was documented thoroughly in his book Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973 & 2000).
(4) Mohammad Arkoun (1928 - ) is an Algerian philosopher, educator, and writer specializing in the history of Islamic thought. He is Emeritus Professor of the History of Islamic Thought, La Sorbonne (Paris III). He has written extensively on contemporary issues of Islam and modernity in French, English, and Arabic. His most recent books include The Unthought in Contemporary Islamic Thought (London: IB Tauris & Saqi, 2002; & New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), L'Immigration: Défis et Richesses (Paris: Bayard Press, 1998), and Rethinking Islam: Common Questions, Uncommon Answers (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1994).
(5) 'Abd al-Hamid Sabra is an Egyptian scholar and Emeritus professor of the history of Arabic science at Harvard University. He is the recipient of the 1987 Kuwait prize in the field of Islamic studies. His focus is on Arabic-Islamic science and philosophy, particularly the study of aspects of Arabic science in the context of Islamic civilization. He has published on subjects including Arabic astronomy and logic, theories of light and vision from the eleventh to seventeenth centuries, and the cultural contexts of Arabic-Islamic science. Among his many publications is The Optics of Ibn al-Haytham (London: Warburg Institute, 1989), a multi-volume edition and translation of the seven books of Ibn al-Haytham's eleventh-century Optics.
(6) In spite of Grabar's skepticism regarding the usefulness of linguistics for the study of art, it should be mentioned that he has provided highly lucid explanations of how structural systems from linguistics may be applied to works of architecture. See Oleg Grabar, "Symbols and Signs in Islamic Architecture," in Architecture and Community: Building in the Islamic World Today, edited by Renata Holod and Darl Rastorfer (New York: Aperture, 1983), pp. 25 - 32. The article may be downloaded from http://archnet.org/library/documents/one-document.tcl?document_id=6130.
And if you say that evils too are from Him, [that is true], but how is it a defect in His grace?
[His] bestowing this evil is even His perfection: I will tell you a parable [in illustration], O respected one.
A painter made two kinds of pictures - beautiful pictures and pictures devoid of beauty.
He painted Joseph and fair-formed houris, he painted ugly afreets and devils.
Both kinds of pictures are [evidence of] his mastery: those [ugly ones] are not [evidence of] his ugliness; they are [evidence of] his bounty.
He makes the ugly of extreme ugliness - it is invested with all [possible ugliness] -
In order that the perfection of his skill may be displayed, [and that] the denier of his mastery may be put to shame.
And if he cannot make the ugly, he is deficient [in skill]: hence He [God] is the Creator of [both] the infidel and the sincere [faithful].
From this point of view, then, [both] infidelity and faith are bearing witness to Him: both are bowing down in worship before His Lordliness.
(Source: Reynold A. Nicholson, trans., The Mathnawi of Jelaluddin Rumi, II (Cambridge, England: E.J.W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 1926), p. 352. Quoted in Richard Ettinghausen and Oleg Grabar, The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650 -1250 (Harmondworth: Penguin Books, 1987), p. 330.)