Why do some of us ascend, while others stay behind?

This painting is based on an illustration from Firdausi’s Shanamah, or Book of Kings In the introduction to the Shahnama, God launches seventy ships, bearing adherents to the religions of mankind, into a stormy sea.  In the center of the ships sits the Prophet Muhummad and his son-in-law Ali.

shia ship

This image made me wonder:  where is Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad and Khadijah?  In Islam, she is revered as an ideal example of womanhood, a Muslim counterpart to the Virgin Mary.

Yet in practice, she is ignored in favor of the man whom she married.  Why is Ali seen as the religious leader worth paying homage to? Why has female leadership been erased from every aspect of our religious practice?  Why does the practice of humility and service turn so easily into invisibility?

In response, I made my own version of this picture, choosing to replace Muhammad with Fatima.  Here, Fatima and Ali ascend to the heavens borne on a cloud, surrounded by a rainbow of light as a symbol of the Divine Feminine.

the ascension of fatima and ali. watercolor, copper, and wool on paper, 2019.

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