2019 Honorable Mention – Zeinab Alrubaiee


Enlightenment is a piece that holds much more meaning underneath the surface of the grandiose painting style. It not only pays homage to the contributions of the Muslims during the Golden Age of Islam, but also illustrates important scientific concepts that we still develop today. The man in the piece is a Middle Eastern individual as well as a Muslim. He was created on a whim by the depths of my imaginationan invention that blossomed after countless thumbnails. It was then that I decided I would focus on a purely symbolic piece of work that with fruitful studying would people find meaning in. It’s not only a reflection of my own heritage, but also one of my deep, inexplicable passion for the field of science and all its potential.

In one hand, the man in the painting grasps a book inscribed with the words “كتاب الجبر” or “The Book of Algebra”. This book is known as one of the most important compendiums of integral mathematical concepts that we know as Algebra. It was written by Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi who was one of the many brilliant minds during the Golden Age of Islam.

In the other hand, the veiled man holds a globe of the earth that levitates. This globe is a nod towards Muhammad al-Idrisi, a well-known cartographer who worked under King Roger III and had drawn one of the most advanced maps of his time. He had not only inspired other Muslim scholars such as Ibn-Battuta but would later inspire Christopher Columbus. Furthermore, if you look closely enough, the globe was illustrated upside down. This is because al-Idrisi has drawn his maps in a south-up method, contrasting strongly against what we’re usually used to seeing.

The circle placed behind the veiled man is also drawn in the shape of an astrolabe, a reference to Mariam Al-Asturlabiya who had altered the designs of the astrolabe and built upon this important instrument. The picturesque view of space inside the astrolabe represents the astronomical pursuits of Muslims. Astronomy was a field that they excelled in, some stars still called by their Arabic names, like that of Altair.

There are numerous other hidden motifs contained in the painting, but I’d rather not spoil the fun. There are certain things that others should find out for themselves and be filled with the thrill of discovery as I had felt when reading upon such notable figures and their ingenious discoveries. An incredible number of brilliant minds during the Golden Age of Islam had existed, all of which very much inspire me to do the same things that they had done. They’ve discovered an endless list of things and paved the way for other inventions to be made. Science is a field where questions continue to blossom, awaiting another curious mind to ruminate upon it and find an answer that would further advance that scientific world, as the Muslim scholars had done during their time.