Portals of Faith


The reopening, after eight years, of the Islamic galleries at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has brought considerable fanfare. Aware perhaps that some Muslims—whose worship spaces are conspicuous for their imageless interiors—might take offense at such spectacularly beautiful works being labeled “Islamic,” the Met has chosen instead to title the collection “Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia.” That clumsy but capacious label enables the curators to display everything from exquisite bowls, jugs, and goblets with little or no religious significance to beautifully calligraphic Qur’ans, sections of mosques, and extravagant miniatures illustrating the largely secular history of the kings of pre-Islamic Iran. I recently spent several hours viewing the collection, guided by the exhibit’s accompanying volume, Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, expertly edited by four specialists: Maryam Ekhtiar, Priscilla Soucek, Sheila Canby, and Navina Najat Haidar.

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About the Author

Patrick J. Ryan, SJ, is the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University.