This triumph of American art, reflecting a decade of travel in the Islamic work, unites two cultures with its transcendent power.
At a time when the United States was involved in two wars against Islamic nations, American-born artist Sandow Birk wanted to understand the Qur'an as it is, and always has been intended: a universal message to humankind. But to do so, he first needed to comprehend what Islam's holiest book meant to an American living in the twenty-first century. Indeed, how has the Qur'an related to us, as Americans, in this life, in this time?
In an attempt to answer his own question, Birk embarked on the most ambitious work of his career. Following in the grand traditions of ancient Arabic and Islamic artists, he began hand-transcribing the entire Qur'an as was done in centuries past―abiding by the traditional prescriptions as to the colors of ink, the formatting of the pages, the size of margins and illuminations of page headings and medallions marking verses and passages. He then took each sura and set it against a backdrop from everyday American life, one that reflected his renowned "skate-surf" ascetic.
Even before the first images of what became known as the American...