This Online Lesson, representative of the exhibition of the same name (July 2013 - February 2014), presents multiple ways of looking at pages from Qur'ans by pairing art historical inquiry with audio interviews with members of Boston's Islamic community.
Description: The MFA has a rich collection of loose pages from Qur'ans, made as early as the eighth and as recently as the twentieth century. From an art historical standpoint, these are fascinating and beautiful objects that speak to key developments in Islamic art. This is, however, just one of many possible ways to appreciate them.
Of equal importance is the perspective of Muslim viewers, from whom Qur'an pages are sacred objects endowed with meaning on many levels. This Online Lesson, representative of the exhibition of the same name (July 2013 - February 2014), presents multiple ways of looking at pages from Qur'ans by pairing art historical inquiry with audio interviews with members of Boston's Islamic community. By engaging with individuals from local Islamic communities and inviting their responses to specific pages, this Online Lesson offers both Muslim and non-Muslim visitors a way to broaden their understanding of the Qur'an, Islam, and Islamic art.
Note: The first one or two Looking Questions per image in this Online Lesson are designed to encourage close looking before listening to the audio. The second one or two Looking Questions are designed for close looking after listening to the audio.
Grade Level: Can be adapted for various subjects in all grades; recommended for 9-12
Learning Goals: In exploring this gallery, students will discover...
- The rich visual elements of pages from the Qur'an
- How contemporary Muslims from the greater Boston community engage with and interpret the Qur'an
This discovery will require students to:
- Look closely at objects and observe details
- Use prior knowledge in conjunction with observation
- Generate hypotheses based on observation and prior knowledge
Using this Resource:
- Social Studies teachers and students will be interested in what this lesson reveals about the role of the Qur'an in both the historical periods in which these pages were created as well as in contemporary Muslim lives.
- Visual Arts teachers and students will be interested in the techniqes and design of illuminated manuscript pages from the Qur'an.
- Language Arts teachers and students will be interested in the connections between the text of the Qur'an verses and the aesthetics of their execution.
- World Language teachers and students will be interested in studying the visual culture of the Arabic language and the differing perspectives of contemporary people on the Qur'an.
For Sample Related Classroom Activities, download the PDF available under Related Resources. The objects in this lesson are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web source--or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries--to look for other objects that will provide further insights into the visual culture of the Qur'an.
Links to Massachusetts State Curriculum Frameworks:
4.6 Demonstrate knowledge of artistic expression in the target culture by identifying, learning, and performing songs, dances, or memorizing poems; by identifying and making examples of crafts or visual arts using traditional techniques such as brush painting, paper folding, or mosaics.
4.21 Analyze examples of literature, primary source historical documents, music, visual arts, theatre, dance, and other artifacts from target culture(s) and discuss how they reflect individual and cultural perspectives.
4.24 Analyze how participants' accounts of the same events can differ; how historians' interpretations of events can change over time; and how participants' and historians' interpretations of events can reflect individual and cultural perspectives
World History I:
WHI.2 Describe significant aspects of Islamic belief
- The life and teachings of Muhammad
- The significance of the Qur'an as the primary source of Islamic belief
- Islam's historical relationship to Judaism and Christianity