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Islamice Art - a vibrant culture and a rich history


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Zeynab
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« on: June 30, 2007, 11:33:17 pm »

 BismEm


The style of Islamic art, a unique style of its own, was produced in many different geographic regions whose diverse cultures were unified through the religion of Islam.

As we know, Islam originated in 7th century Arabia and quickly spread throughout the Middle East upto Spain in the West and China in the East. Before the next century Muslims had conquered Byzantium and Persia, as well as parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. For the next six centuries, until the Mongol nomads invaded the Muslem capital of Baghdad in 1258, the nation of Islam was the world's largest empire and the site of a great cultural flowering.

Ban on figural representation by Hadith
The institution of Hadith or the so-called Traditions forbade the use of animal or human figures from Islamic art. Instead, Islamic artists created rhythmic patterns of script, geometric designs, or abstracted plant and floral forms. Thus, after the introduction of the Hadith culture into Islam, figural art was discontinued in many places of the Muslim empire, replaced by geometrical patterns, flowers and plants.

Essays on Islamic art by writers such as David Talbot Rice, Desmond Stewart, and Ralph Pinder Wilson suggest that "The Islamic religion still forbids the representation of figures and so, naturally, to call any art which contains figural representation 'Islamic', is erroneous and offensive to Moslems (believers)."

However, it must be kept in mind, this ban on figural representation was imposed by the Hadith, not the Quraan. Thus, the fact remains, if one wants to pursue figural art only for the purpose of art, there's no reason to feel "threatened" by mere drawings or paintings of human or animal figures. Presently, and even in the past, many sections of the Muslim community have and did work on figural art to promote it only as an artistic subject, NOT for the purpose of recognizing those figural depictions for religious purposes. In other words, according to the original Islamic values, that is, the Glorious Qur'aan (which has nothing to do with the innovations of Hadith), intent counts the most. Hence, pursing art as an artistic subject or hobby is very different from making or constructing pictures for religious purposes. The purpose of Islamic art has always been to promote art as a rich and vibrant field of expertise portraying decorative beauty. Whether figural or non-figural, Islamic art has NEVER carried any relgious connotations linked with the idea of worship. Therefore, the Hadith ruling introducing a ban on figural art carries no meaning.

An amalgam of races / cultures
This Islamic linked people of diverse cultures living far and wide such as Spaniards, North Africans, Persians, Turks, Egyptians and East Indians. The uniting of so many diverse cultures under one flag and one religion resulted in the discovery and possession of the latest and best discoveries in various fields of learning. E.g. Paper making from China, "Arabic" numerals from Egypt, Iraq and India, classical Greek science and philosophy translations, were all shared. In medicine the Muslims collectively enhanced Greek theory by practical observation and clinical experience. Significant contributions were also made in chemistry, physics and mathematics. Such an enlightened culture also encouraged new developments in various fields of art.

Architecture
The constructions of the pointed arch and beautiful brick domes can be attributed to none except the early architects of mosques. Unique to Islamic architecture are the minaret , a tower from which the Muslims are called to worship, and the gumbat. Interiors and exteriors of the buildings were extensively decorated with off-set brick, stucco, ablaq (striping) or tile.

Use of script in designs
The use of Arabic script as an artistic motif was widely used in Islamic art that contributed greatly in the blending together of diverse Muslim societies. Arabic being the original language of the Quraan, use of Arabic letters / words is the highest form of art. This also includes writing of the original verses of the Quraan. Thus, calligraphers are much respected in the circle of Islamic artists. The 2 basic types of Arabic scripts used in decorative art are Kufic and Naskhi. Kufic script is brings an angular type of lettering, mostly used in Egypt and Syria. The Naskhi script is more rounded and perhaps easier to read.

Silks
Also known for its beauty were the Islamic fabrics, particularly the various patterned silken materials. These patterns mostly included calligraphy and plants done on exquisite colours with gold & silver threads. Another famous Islamic motif, the arabesque, was a complex, ornate design of intertwined floral, foliate, and geometric figures.

Carpets
The carpets of Islamic regions, namely Iran (Persia) are world-renowned for their great beauty and technical excellence. Gradually, as the this culural art flourished and spread, carpet styles also started being used as wall hangings, cushions, blankets, prayer mats and saddle covers. The carpet styles of various regions developed independently of one another, employing different motifs and color schemes.

Metalwork
In metalwork, Muslim artisans crafted elaborate boxes, basins, bowls, jugs and incense burners decorated with arabesques and other stylized inscriptions and plant forms. The metals most commonly selected for such craftmanship were brass and bronze, luxuriously inlaid with gold, silver and copper.

Ceramics
Islamic ceramics became a tough competition for the fine wares of China. Unfortunately they didn't have the right type of clay. Yet they succeeded in creating some of the most beautiful decorative pieces with unique techniques including lustre-ware and a style of polychrome painted-ware called 'minai.'

Painting
Canvas paintings are not recorded in Islamic history. But excavations have discovered fragmented wall paintings of a secular nature and Muslims are responsible for a great number small paintings on paper which serve as illustrations for books.

A Humble Art
Islamic designs are created with humble aspirations - to enrich an environment or to beautify an object. They seek to enhance rather than to dominate. Islamic artists are not trying to reveal their own personality or to create art which tells a story of its own. This art willingly takes a secondary role because to Muslims, the lead roles were cast long ago. Allah is the personality of Islamic art and the Qur'aan is the truthful story.


History of Islamic art in Wikipedia
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Ruhi_Rose
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« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2007, 02:44:15 am »



Very interesting stuff, sis ..  filled with 'nostalgia'  🙂   we may find such pleasures again only in Jannah, InshAllah.  In this world, the ummah has gone down the drain forever!  thanks for posting Sis Zeynab. 

The images of those two other posts are truly awesome!!  My entire family loved it.
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Heba E. Husseyn
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« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2007, 02:29:24 am »



Yeah, informative .. and I understand what you mean by "nostalgia" Sister Ruhi.  How much we've changed now!  watch some of the Islamic videos at youtube.  All one gets to watch and hear are phonys talking about disallowing women driving cars and using perfumes and misinterpreting the Noble Quran in all sorts of ways to promote their brand of ideas. 

All the pictures were truly eye-catching and dazzling!  Thanks so much Sister Zeynab.  Even though our present bears no resemblance to the past whatsoever, we should know it and remember it. 
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