In this ambitious, albeit controversial project entitled American Qur'an, American artist Sandow Birk has been transcribing the entire Qur'an into English along with illustrated narratives. According to the exhibition organizers, "Through the American Qur'an series, Birk presents a new version of this holy book that is more accessible and also shows how the teachings can be applied to the daily experiences of American life." Be that as it may, the Islamic faith forbids the use of figurative images in the Holy Koran. Moreover, in the Islamic world, the practice of calligraphy constitutes a proper expression of piety. The writing of Arabic script was considered an exemplary activity for men and women of all stations due to its association with the Qur'an. Cleverly, Mr. Birk attempts to side-step the issue of represenation by paying homage to Persian miniature painting in his Koranic illustrations.
P•P•O•W says, "this project reflects Birk's continued interest in understanding and bringing to a wider audience religious texts, as he did in his illustrated version of Dante's Divine Comedy, and also social issues, as he did in his The Depravities of War, which was about the Iraq War. Birk will continue working on the American Qu'ran project for another three years and, when completed, it will be 114 suras on over 300 pages. Birk's previous suras have been exhibited at Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco and Koplin del Rio Gallery, Culver City."
Sandow Birk's work is in numerous museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Harvard University Museum, the De Young Museum, The Getty Center, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Jose Museum of Art, the New York Historical Society, and the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art.