Pre-modern cultures and civilizations were generally beautiful. This is especially but not uniquely true of pre-modern Islamic cultures and civilizations -- their visual arts, architecture, clothing, rugs, and other artifacts. On the other hand, modern cultures and civilizations struggle with the problem of ugliness. On occasion, ugliness becomes the norm. It is "real." Beauty is valued, but it is exotic and not normative. If you are fortunate, you go to a "beautiful" setting for vacation, but then have to return to the monotony, dullness, and ugliness of the world we live in.

The one-day course, "Beauty, the Splendor of Truth: Timeless Universals and Time-Bound Modernisms" investigates this matter. In many traditional societies, it was believed that there is an intrinsic relation between God, truth, virtue (inward beauty), and outward beauty. In the modern world, by contrast, we often feel as though our understanding of reality vacillates between this objectivity of truth as understood by traditional peoples across the world for millennia, and the subjectivity of the self under the influence of the moral relativism of modernity. Meanwhile, beauty, virtue -- even truth itself -- hang in the imbalance. The individualistic and materialistic predispositions of modernity permeate our approach to art, architecture, music, culture, and economics. More gravely yet, it affects how the modern individual interprets himself. Modern man fulfills his purpose more faithfully the more he can paint the sacred with the colors of profanity, until the distinction between the two are sufficiently blurred as to strip both of any meaning. Beauty, however, is an entirely different matter. Though its experience may be subjective, its reality is objective, and it beckons to virtue, for it is the very splendor of truth!

Sheikh's Bio:
Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah (Wymann-Landgraf) is an American Muslim, born to a Protestant family in Columbus, Nebraska. He grew up in Athens, Georgia, where both of his parents taught at the University of Georgia. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Missouri with dual majors in history and English literature. In his last year there, he won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and entrance to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York to pursue a Ph.D. program in English literature. Shortly after coming to Cornell, Dr. Abd-Allah read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which inspired him to embrace Islam. He subsequently altered his field of study and transferred to the University of Chicago, where he studied Arabic and Islamic studies and received his doctorate with honors for a dissertation on the origins of Islamic law, “Malik's Concept of ‘Amal in the Light of Maliki Legal Theory.” He taught at the University of Windsor (Ontario), Temple University, and the University of Michigan. He then went to Spain to teach Arabic in Granada. Two years later, he was appointed to the Department of Islamic Studies at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah, where he taught Islamic studies and comparative religions for several years. During the time he spent in Jeddah, Dr. Abd-Allah was able to study with a number of traditional scholars. He then returned to the United States in 2000 under the auspices of the Nawawi Foundation (Chicago). He taught Islamic Studies at Darul Qasim Institute (Chicago) from 2012 to 2013. He is currently engaged in independent research, writing, and teaching activities with institutions across the United States, Europe, and Africa with a focus on Islamic theology.

Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah has authored:
A Muslim in Victorian America: The Life of Alexander Russell Webb (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)
Malik and Medina: Islamic Legal Reasoning in the Formative Period (Leiden: Brill, 2013)
His published articles include:
“Abu Hanifa,” in Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1:295-301.
“Theological Dimensions of Islamic Law,” in The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
“One God, Many Names”
“Islam and the Cultural Imperative”
“Living Islam with Purpose” External Event Url
Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC)
100 Malcolm X Blvd, Roxbury Crossing, MA, United States