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Idol, statue and sculpture: Let the misinterpretation end

Opposing sculpture is not a new phenomenon in Bangladesh. A sculpture in the form of a Greek goddess was erected on the Supreme Court premises in 2017 which was removed due to opposition from several Islamist groups
Majhar Mannan
Idol, statue and sculpture: Let the misinterpretation end

In recent times, there has been a lot of controversy regarding sculptures and statues. Although statues and sculptures look very similar, there is a big difference between the two.

There is a huge difference in meaning between the two. The process of these two is also different and their purpose is different. The biggest difference between the two is the difference in perspective. The symbolic meaning of the two is completely different. The artistic quality of sculpture is totally different from the artistic quality of statutes. If two things look alike, it is not understood that their purpose and significance are one and same. There are also obvious differences between idols and sculptures. The idol is often considered as the giver of fortune and strength. But the idea of a thousand years of history and civilization is found through sculpture.  Every art has its hidden meaning. The question may arise as to how logical it is to confuse the concept of sculptures with the concept of statutes. Statutes are worshiped but sculpture is never worshiped. The etymological concept of the two is not one and same. The purpose of these two is completely different and their construction techniques are also different.

Great philosopher Aristotle explained his causation theory through the example of a statue. It takes wood, iron, stone, brick, sand, cement to make a statute and they are the material cause. A design is needed to create the statue and this design is the morphological factor. A maker is needed to make the statue and he is called cause of matter. The statue is made with a special purpose and this purpose is the cause of consequence. So it is very important to consider the purpose for which an artwork has been made. It is not at all appropriate to misinterpret a work of art without understanding its real purpose. A work of art like a sculpture has many abstract ideas hidden in it and has a lot of meaning. A sculpture is considered as a part of art, history, culture, literature and aesthetics. Many people think of sculpture as statue because of their own ignorance. If an artist uses the sculptural method to create a statue, it will have the status of a sculpture. The fearless girl statue and the statue of liberty are two famous statues in the world.

In recent times, some religious groups have come up with anti-sculpture rallies. They are interpreting statue and sculpture as one and the same and they are campaigning against it. They demanded to stop the construction of Bangabandhu's sculpture in Dholairpar of the capital. Obaidul Quader says, fabricated interpretation regarding Bangabandhu's sculpture is a challenge to the spirit of liberation war and culture of the country. Different types of sculptures have been made in different countries at different times in the context of art, literature, history and culture.
Sculptures of various notable people can be seen in Muslim countries such as the sculptures of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, Persian poet Khaqani in Iran, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai, Ferdowsi in Tehran, Ataturk in Istambul, Ibn-e-Sina in Iran, Ibn Khaldun in Tunis and mural of Imam Khomeni in Iran.

In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, there are two statutes, one of a camel and the other of a fist-like statute. Museums in Iran, Egypt and Iraq have numerous sculptures and statutes. There is a huge pillar of freedom in Iran called Azadi. The designer of this architecture is a Muslim and his name is Hossain Amanat. Egypt has a worldwide reputation for Pyramids. Cairo University has Mahmoud Muktar's famous sculpture ''Renaissance of Egypt''. The Winged sculpture in front of Bagdad Airport catches everyone's eye. There is a huge sculpture of Mansur in the city of Al Mansur next to Bagdad.

Opposing sculpture is not a new phenomenon in Bangladesh. A sculpture in the form of a Greek goddess was erected on the Supreme Court premises in 2017 which was removed due to opposition from several Islamist groups. Four principles have been declared in the constitution of Bangladesh and secularism is one of them. This principle of secularism has been described in Article 12 of the constitution. Bangabandhu struggled for this secularism. The fundamental philosophy of this state, which has been achieved at the cost of millions of lives, is the non-communal democratic consciousness.

The making of statues and the worship of statues are forbidden in the Quran. But in the Quran there is no such prohibition on the construction of sculpture. The concept of sculpture is mentioned in Surah Al Saba and verse 13. The Quran mentions the construction of sculptures in the time of prophet Solaiman. The technique of making various kinds of works of art with metal has been mentioned in this Surah. (Ref. Quran Majid, Bangla Translation, Atifa Publication, third edition, September 2019, page- 392, no.13). Making various types of pots by melting copper is a very ancient work of art and clear descriptions of such works of art have been found since the time of prophet Solaiman.

Verse 30 of Surah Al-Hajj mentions exclusion of statues but there is no mention of sculptures ( Ibid, p-309). Verse 36 of Surah Ibrahim speaks of abstaining from idols. There is clear mention of idols but no mention of sculpture (Ibid, p- 232).

Since the construction of sculpture is not forbidden in the Quran, it has no conflict with Islam. Construction of sculpture is allowed in various Muslim countries around the world.
Statue and sculpture are two different types of artwork. There are many subtle and fundamental differences between the two. The physical structure of the two seems to be the same but the two are of completely different types. The symbolic meaning of the two can never be one and same. So we have to rely on scientific interpretation instead of misinterpreting statues and sculptures. Many types of sculptures have been made centering the liberation war and independence of Bangladesh. These sculptures can in no way be matched with statues. Sculpture is a three-dimensional creative object which can be made of almost any material and does not have to be life-like as a statute must be. Sculpture is a branch of the visual arts.

Islam is a complete code of life. Islam does not support any kind of misinterpretation or superstition. Islam teaches us generosity. There is no conflict between Islam and art rather Islam supports the creative works.

Our last Prophet (pubh) himself patronized art and literature. At one time, Muslims, around the world made significant contributions to the development of art and literature. Misinterpretation of Islam can confuse people. So we have to get out of this misinterpretation.

The writer is Assistant Professor, B A F Shaheen College, Kurmitola
Dhaka Cantonment. The opinions expressed in this article the writer’s own.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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