Walters Art Museum, MS 567, fol. 1b
(1230 AH / 1814-15 CE, Iran),
Courtesy of The Digital Walters.
I took the opportunity to underscore one of my key goals in the class: to instill a sense of diversity and sympathy for world cultures and various representations of what it means to be human. I was honest: I told them that I had no idea about the date when I had put the Qur'an on the scheduled, but that I thought it was a good opportunity for rethinking and revising some of our assumptions and expectations on a day when those thoughts may be very present in our minds. I told them that we had to understand culture and literature through interpretation; that we had to understand cultures not as monolithic (there is no single "Islamic culture" just like there is no single "Christian culture"); that all of our readings and discussions lead us to consider diversity and sympathy. As I said all of this, I watched as they took in what I was saying--nodding, smiling, taking notes, agreeing. They chimed in, echoing some of my words, extending my ideas, and our discussion turned to reflections on how we live in a moment ripe with possibilities for cross-cultural, multi-faith, ecumenical conversations. It gave me hope, and one more reason to remember why I love teaching.