This artefact and accompanying book, by the internationally-acclaimed Egyptian born British artist Ahmed Moustafa, takes its inspiration from, and attempts to shed light on, the well-known Prophet tradition: `God has ninety-nine names one hundred minus one and whosoever enumerates them enters Paradise.'
Dr Moustafa suggests that the phrase `one hundred minus one' is not simply a rhetorical device but is rather 'a precise reference to a mathematical reality'. The Attributes of Divine Perfection, a Kaba-styled structure, opens up along its vertices to give rise to a pyramid which, when folded back onto its counterpart formation, reveals a gold-laminated inner surface that is comprised of a number of smaller cubes. A superficial look at the cubes would suggest that these number one hundred, but on closer inspection it becomes clear that they in actual fact number ninety-nine; what at first appears to be the hundredth cube is in reality simply the complimentary segment to the first small cube. Inscribed onto each of these cubes, in square Kufi script, is one of the ninety-nine names of God.
Accompanying the artefact is a well-produced book (in English with an accompanying Arabic translation), which, based on Imam Abu Hamid al Ghazali's popular treatise, The Most Sublime Purpose in Explaining The Attributes of Divine Perfection, provides an accessible introduction to the meanings inherent in and conveyed through the ninety-nine names of God. The book benefits from a prefatory note by Jeremy Henzell-Thomas in which he considers the central idea underpinning this work, namely that of the notion of Unity containing within it a profound and meaningful multiplicity and a most memorable essay by the respected thinker and writer Gai Eaton on 'The Concept of God in Islam'. With his characteristic eloquence and flair, Eaton successfully manages the challenging task of attempting to articulate the nature of the God-Man relationship and the fruits that are of necessity enjoyed by those privileged enough to realise the magnitude and significance of the first half of the testimony of faith. I found the conclusion to his essay both challenging and liberating:
'But He does make Himself accessible through His revealed Names. We, in our small way, can exemplify these qualities and attributes in our daily lives. Inspired and aided by The Most Merciful we can show mercy. Inspired and motivated by the One Who Creates Guidance we can guide our fellow men and women. Through his Light our lives may be illuminated. What we cannot hope to exemplify fully is His Perfection, but we can love it whole-heartedly. We love those who are kind to us, and God is kindness itself. We love generosity when it is directed ward us, and He is the Selflessly Generous One. We are irresistibly drawn towards beauty, and He is the source of all Beauty. Above all, we love Perfection, and we seek it in vain in this imperfect world. We find it in God, who is alone perfect, and the Qur'an tells us `that the believers are strong in their love of God.' At the end of the road, sign-posted by the divine Names, the Muslim rejoices in an overwhelming love for the One who awaits us at journey's end.'
Punctuated throughout by a selection of Dr Moustafa's striking calligraphic works, these help to create a sense of continuity between the book and accompanying work of art.
Irrespective of whether or not one subscribes to Dr Moustafa's thesis of the explanation of the phrase `one hundred minus one', this combination of well-presented artefact and accompanying book is I suspect likely to be appreciated by all those who revel in the Prophetic tradition, `God is beautiful and He loves that which is beautiful.'
Professor Aziz Sheikh
University of Edinburgh
The Cube of Cubes, Fe Noon Ahmed Moustafa
ISBN: 1 872 359 00 0