Here is the English abstract of Dr. Iraj Dadashi's (Faculty Member, Tehran University of Art) speech at the first series of scientific lectures of the international conference on Theology of Pilgrimage titled "Theology of Pilgrimage and Art" which was held online on Sunday, July 9, 2023.
Theology of Pilgrimage and Traditional Arts
Tradition is not limited to its conventional and common meanings. It can be better understood when compared to similar terms in Eastern traditions such as the Hindu tradition, which is called "Ṛta", and in Chinese tradition, called "Tao", and in the Zoroastrian tradition, called "Arta" or "Asha". Additionally, understanding the meanings of Quranic terms like "Sunnat al-Allāh" and "Kalimāt al-Allāh" as unchangeable and divine foundations can also provide a more accurate understanding of tradition. It is true that Honar (a Persian word used contemporarily as a translation for art), in its first historical usage, would refer to a complete and virtuous human being, however, it is today understood as art, so we can talk about traditional art against modern art. If modernity, as Habermas states, derives its values from within itself and is autonomous, tradition is the opposite, as it is divinely founded. Therefore, traditional art or crafts, according to Muslim thinkers, is an art that arises from the principles of divine traditions. Traditional crafts, in the thoughts of Muslim philosophers and mystics, are considered one of the two branches of practical wisdom. Nasir al-Din Tusi describes theoretical wisdom as the form and practical wisdom as the matter, which cannot exist without each other. The purpose and goal of crafts, or more generally, practical wisdom, is to achieve perfection and happiness, just as it is in theoretical wisdom. Therefore, traditional art or crafts are a way or method to attain perfection. This meaning aligns with the concept of Honar in its historical sense, which means a complete human being. Traditional art means art that arises from traditional principles. Since work, profession, and art are ways to achieve perfection, it seems that traditional art is a way of living with the principles of tradition. Traditional art is also a spiritual and ritual duty that preserves and keeps the tradition and helps it to be externalized. The manliness or chivalrous customs (Futuwwat) in Iran and the Islamic world are, in fact, a kind of code of conduct for performing rituals in the form of crafts and arts. One of the manifestations of traditional art throughout the history of Islamic civilization has been the sacred pilgrimage sites, with the Kaaba being at the forefront. In the pilgrimage sites or holy shrines in Iran, the architecture of the buildings and the objects present in these structures are all created by traditional artists. The art of shrine-making itself is considered the main characteristic of Iranian traditional arts in the shrines.
Translator: Mahdi Qasemi