Keywords: Islamic arts, aesthetics, ethics, values, culture, revelation
Abstact: The arts rise above the limitations of language and texts to offer a window onto other cultures. Artistic beauty and aesthetics can travel across time and place, and transcend cultural and ethnic boundaries. But at the same time, the arts can reflect values and ideals of a particular culture expressed within a particular time and place. Looking particularly at Islamic arts, this article explores the close connection between beauty and the sacred, between a search for beauty and refinement of one's desire and character, between nature and revelation.
Tazim R Kassam obtained her PhD in the History of Religions at McGill University in Canada. Currently Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Syracuse University, her research and teaching interests include gender, ritual, devotional literature, syncretism and the cultural heritage of Muslims, particularly in South Asia.
In her book Songs of Wisdom and Circles of Dance (State University of New York, 1995), she explores the origins and creative synthesis of Hindu-Muslim ideas expressed in the song tradition of the Satpanth Ismaili Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent. She has twice co-chaired the Study of Islam section of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), served as President of the Rocky Mountain Great Plains Regional AAR Meeting, was a Lilly Teaching Scholar and is serving a second term on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.
Her awards include fellowships from The Institute of Ismaili Studies, the Social Science Research Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She also pursues interests in Indian classical vocal music, computer technologies for teaching, and community service.