“In the self and on the horizon
is the greatest witness
to the limitless perfection of God.
If you were to concern yourself with the physical bodies
And their perfection of form
and their inner connection like a string of pearls,
Then you would believe in Unity with firm conviction,
and you would turn away
from illusions, doubt and distractions.”
– from the ‘Diwan’ of Shaykh Muhammad ibn Al-Habib
By Sister Humairah
More than a week ago, I was granted the opportunity to meet Peter Sanders, world renowned photographer of the Islamic World. The above excerpt came from the Diwan of one of Mr. Sanders’ teachers, so beautifully apt to depict his profession. He shared it in his introduction, and I could not help but note it down.
It was an absolute honour to be present that day. I’ve always seen Mr Sander’s photos online – to be able to meet the person behind those photographs was a different story altogether. He shared with us about his upcoming work ‘Meeting with Mountains‘, a collection of portraits of influential individuals within the Islamic world, those that Mr. Sanders had met along his journey. It was noted that several of the scholars were photographed exclusively for the project.
We were told that the title of the project was inspired by:
“Have We not made the earth a resting place? And the mountains as stakes?” Q[78:6-7]
Mr. Sanders shared with us several photographs from his project and they were…. truly breath-taking. When people describe Noor emanating from certain blessed people, he actually managed to capture that Noor on his camera. The laughing shaykh from China, the piercing eyes of a lady who spends her time serving at a tomb in Turkmenistan, a mesmerising moment during one of Martin Ling’s last speeches before he passed… The Noor was evident in his photos for all of us to see. To behold each photograph was to be reminded of God.
Humble and enthusiastic on sharing his experience, Mr. Sanders’ passion shone through his eyes as he answered our queries. Among the things I managed to jot down…
“You just have to find beauty in the pictures. It’s there. It is your duty.”
On his conversion in the 70s and his subsequent journey..
“It’s like Allah lifted me up and blew me all over the world. And now that the storm’s over, I think… ‘What just happened?’”
“One thing I’ve always wondered about is how the Prophet never asked someone ‘Why did you do this? Why did you do that’? He never questioned another’s intentions because he knew that there are reasons why Allah pushes you into that direction.”
“Everyone will take a photo of the same thing differently because whatever you see is unique to you, it’s a gift from Allah.”
“Sometimes I think Allah pushes me into a tight spot for a reason. Because at that point there is only one shot I can take – that’s what you’re meant to do.”
Definitely blessed are those who make use of their gifts from Allah in efforts to capture His Divine Essence
*Sis Humairah is one of the Sout Ilaahi ambassador
Photo by Khalid Ajmain via iphone 4s