Imagine a German-born, ethnically Iranian (Sunni?) Muslim — Navid Kermani — wandering around the religious art of Western Europe and telling you what he really thinks, in fairly analytical terms. I am very much enjoying this book, here is one excerpt:
One reason why the zest that Catholic art has for Jesus’s suffering leaves such a bad taste in my mouth is no doubt because I am familiar wit it, and unfamiliar with it, from Shia. I am familiar with it because the celebration of martyrdom in Shia is just as excessive, bordering on the pornographic, and I am unfamiliar with it because, in my grandfather’s faith, which was more influential than any other point of reference in my own religious upbringing, precisely this aspect of Shia played no part, indeed was rejected as folk belief and superstitition, a dissuasion from making the world a better place instead of just lamenting its condition. [Guido] Reni does not glorify pain; he doesn’t show it at all. He accomplishes what other crucifixion scenes only suggest: he transposes suffering from the physical to the metaphysical.
If the Greatest Master of Sufism claims that the contemplation of God is most perfect in women, the Christians’ images confirm it.
Definitely recommended (for some of you), and I have ordered many more of Kermani’s books.