Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While a graduate student working on my MFA in glass, I discovered Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr‘s book Islamic Art and Spirituality.  Using his extensive understanding of Islam and many other world religions, Dr. Nasr examines the sacred creativity which helps define us as human and gives lasting value to our constructive efforts.  I was struck by his thoughtfulness, compassion, and the ease with which he communicates complex and multi-faceted concepts.  His books Knowledge and the Sacred, Sufi Essays, and An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines followed; through his association with The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts he invited Dr. Keith Critchlow to examine the physical structures of traditional Islamic art, and Dr. Critchlow wrote Islamic Patterns:  An Analytical and Cosmological Approach which also impacted me greatly.  A Shi’a friend recommended I also read Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s The Quest for Meaning:  Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism, which I read in concert with Dr. Nasr’s Man and Nature:  The Spiritual Crisis in Modern Man–the two books, written decades apart, harmonized beautifully.  I owe my budding as a Christian artist to Dr. Nasr’s work.

During the closing weeks of the Beauty and Belief:  Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture exhibit at BYU, the Museum of Art and the Wheatley Institution brought Dr. Nasr out for a Distinguished Lecture in International Affairs, Islam:  Truth and Beauty.  His lecture, Transcending the Complexities of Truth and Beauty, was one of the best-attended lectures at the museum since it was founded.  Thankfully, the museum recorded the lecture and preserved it in podcast format, and you can listen to it through this link , or watch a video of it here.  A Muslim friend laments that there are few self-critiquing Muslim scholars, and was very pleased to meet Dr. Nasr on his visit to BYU.  Not only does he examine his own faith honestly and thoughtfully, Dr. Nasr is able to bridge the divides which separate many faiths and brings a measure of peace and growth to all who listen.  Meeting him and hearing him speak was truly a treasure, and it was certainly exciting to get to meet one of my heroes.