The Islamic Garden
Osman Andrew Young – Adventurer and
Osman's sense of adventure led him beyond his
studies of Arab
At eighteen years of age he hitchhiked
through North Africa trekking
Fascination with Ancient Scripts
Frustrated at seeing incomprehensible Greek
ancient Greek walls, unfathomable ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, and
then the elegant
lines and shapes of Arabic script in
Despite dabbling in Arabic at university and
Osman went to Jabal Mara (a mountain range)
Prayer in the Middle of Nowhere
He, and fifty other travelers, went on a lorry up into the mountains in Jabal Mara. When the sun was going down, everyone piled off the lorry and he was left behind wondering what was going on. The men lined up and someone called to prayer. Osman remembers, "I was the foreigner with a camera so I took lots of pictures. These I kept and they were little seeds for my heart." Getting off the truck and praying in the middle of nowhere was all quite simple; it was what every adult sane male was doing. There was no compulsion, no fuss; the people prayed because they wanted to. Osman watched. Every morning during this five-day-lorry journey, he would hear the wind blowing against his sleeping bag and with his eyes closed he would hear the people praying.
One time on Jabal Mara he was eating at a remote bamboo coffee shop in the middle of nowhere and one of the people, a stranger he had been eating with, gestured to him to follow. The man gave Osman his bed in his hut to sleep on while he slept on the stone floor. Osman clearly remembers being half awake at Fajr watching peacefully while the man prayed. These memories became a background for him; like water dripping on a very dense rock.
"Life there was carefree. You plant food,
grow it, and eat
it. That's how the people lived," observes Osman. But soon his time in
During this time, he came in contact with Muslim reverts who suggested he attend gatherings where the Quran is recited and the people make Thikr. At first, he did not pay much attention to this suggestion and a whole year passed until he finally agreed. He had withdrawn from the world and was busy thinking and painting. He tried his hand at yoga, focusing on meditation and reading. But still feeling as if he did not really belong anywhere, he spoke to a friend on the phone who again suggested that he attend the gathering, adding, "They take anyone!" After this, Osman remembers, things started to accelerate.
He recalls, "The timing was right for me. I
that they gathered together just down the road and had done so all the
I’d been in
About his first visit, Osman recalls, "It took some time to greet all fifteen men and then I heard the call to prayer and quietly got into the back row. Standing next to an Egyptian doctor, I just copied the movements of the prayer." When he heard the beautiful recitation of Quran and Thikr he felt as if he was hearing things that he had always known. He remembers, "I knew it without possibly knowing how I could know it." It sounded like one voice and had a very strong visual impact on him. Osman notes, "It was beyond description; astonishingly beautiful and colorful. Even in the silent parts I still experienced the spiritual light show. I wanted to go back for more."
Osman did go back for more and from this group he turned his attention to calligraphy. This has become his passion; his bliss. It is a way to express the beautiful thoughts, feelings and ideas that have become a part of him. He notes, "My heart was plugged in from the very first Quran gathering." As he discovered Islam, he discovered himself and his growing ability to create beautiful calligraphy.