*This article may have affiliate links, which means we may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links we provide (at no extra cost to you). For more details, please read our privacy policy/affiliate disclosure. Thank you for supporting the work we put into this blog!

What Is Cal­lig­ra­phy In Islam­ic Art?

Hav­ing Islam­ic art in a short arti­cle would be kind of an impos­si­bil­i­ty with the 1300 years of his­to­ry, but we are going to do our best and our wish to show you a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of that art. Also, our wish to show you not destroyed build­ings or ruined lives results in a dark and fear-induc­ing reli­gious extrem­ism. But eye-water­ing and awe-inspir­ing beau­ty, a result of a ground­break­ing spirituality! moroccan tile background The visu­al arts of (Main­ly) the Mid­dle-East, upon which Islam has had a pro­found influ­ence. Books have been writ­ten about Islam­ic Arts, and they have exist­ed for near­ly 1300 years. Now, let it say that we know and com­pre­hend how some peo­ple don’t seem to agree with the term “Islam­ic Arts.” It is believed to be a part of an Ori­en­tal­ist view of Islam. But there’ no refus­ing the fact that Islam has inspired Mus­lim artists and their works to a pro­found lev­el. Thus, we will be leav­ing the dis­cus­sion on the def­i­n­i­tion for anoth­er time and per­haps anoth­er arti­cle and will be focus­ing on the works men­tioned ear­li­er of Islam­ic Art. So, let us begin this small jour­ney into com­pre­hend­ing the Islam­ic Arts in the way all such jour­neys start. By look­ing into the his­to­ry of it all.

Looking back and within

Beautiful examples of Ottoman Calligraphy art It is the 7th Cen­tu­ry A.D, and a rel­a­tive­ly new monothe­is­tic reli­gion is spread­ing fast in the East. Islam expands and allows the Chris­tians and Jews who were liv­ing with­in the Caliphate to keep on liv­ing as usu­al. With­in the Caliphate, artists keep devel­op­ing their arts. Some with an already pre­ex­ist­ing mind­set and some are influ­enced by this “new” reli­gion. The peo­ple of the three Abra­ham­ic faiths liv­ing and work­ing in the same lands, ruled by the same peo­ple, liv­ing sim­i­lar lives. It was bound to affect their arts. That is why the term Islam­ic Arts doesn’t just cov­er the works of Mus­lims under its “umbrel­la” but those of Chris­tians and Jews that lived with­in the Islam­ic Caliphates as well. It was dur­ing that era, the time of the Umayyad dynasty (661–750), that we’re start­ing to see the signs of the birth of the Islam­ic Arts. Archi­tec­ture is quick­ly inspired by the pre­ex­ist­ing Byzan­tine cul­ture, though its imagery of peo­ple replaced images of cities, trees, and plants. Even the coinage that was pro­duced for the Caliphate doesn’t include “pic­tures” of the monarch (Caliph). But instead, inscrip­tions are writ­ten in Ara­bic. It is, after all, for­bid­den to pro­duce images of liv­ing crea­tures cre­at­ed by God. Keep in mind that even back then, par­tic­u­lar styles with­in Islam­ic Arts exist­ed. A man in Syr­ia was just as like­ly to name the style of his archi­tec­ture ( Byzan­tine or Syr­i­an ) as it was to call it Islam­ic. But there were those forms of art that were to be pure­ly Islam­ic.

Islamic Art calligraphy

Such an art, with­out a doubt, was cal­lig­ra­phy, one. If not the, most impor­tant art forms in all of the Caliphates. Mus­lims believe that the Qu’ran is a scrip­ture pro­vid­ed by the divine (Allah) to the Prophet Mohammed. And Qu’ran is treat­ed with the utmost respect and ado­ra­tion. Thus, vers­es of the Qu’ran writ­ten in var­i­ous forms of callig­ra­phy have been found in many a piece of art across the Caliphates. These inscrip­tions are usu­al­ly fur­ther dec­o­rat­ed by geo­met­ric and veg­e­ta­tive motifs ( For exam­ple, flow­ers). And are placed any­where from palaces, to mosques, to madrasas (Reli­gious schools) to mau­soleums. Canva - Islamic calligraphy and colorful geometric patterns a Morocco. Hon­est­ly, if we’re talk­ing about the Islam­ic Arts. The impor­tance of cal­lig­ra­phy can­not be over­stat­ed. It was the art form that engulfed and com­plet­ed most oth­er arts in the Islam­ic world. Keep in mind that while no ani­mals or humans were open­ly depict­ed in Islam­ic works of art. Islam­ic arts them­selves were far from aniconic. If you’re look­ing for proof, look no fur­ther than the pri­vate res­i­dences of men such as Khir­bat Maf­jar and Qasr Amra. Where there are sev­er­al dec­o­ra­tions of fig­u­ra­tive paint­ings and sculp­tures. After all, as already stat­ed, not all who prac­ticed the Islam­ic Arts were Mus­lim and thus bound by Sharia law. It is also extreme­ly like­ly that as a West­ern­er, I haven’t seen much impor­tance being placed in the Islam­ic world when it comes to arts. Peo­ple blame this on dif­fer­ent things. While some cry racism or big­otry. It is my per­son­al belief that our real cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences are to blame. While both the East and the West have val­ued and will always val­ue archi­tec­ture, the West was more focused on sculp­tures and paint­ings. You mere­ly need to see the most val­ued art pieces of our times to under­stand this real­i­ty. The Mona Lisa (one of my favourites), The Cre­ation of Adam, Donatello’s David, Venus de Milo by Alexan­dros of Antioch. Islamic Art l Seize Your Life All these pieces of art depict humans in a way that is for­bid­den in Islam. On the oth­er hand, car­pet mak­ing, ceram­ics, and met­al­lur­gy were nev­er real­ly appre­ci­at­ed as art forms. At least not in the way that they val­ued in the Islam­ic world. Thus, it is pret­ty safe to say that the artis­tic val­ues that are extreme­ly loved in the West are non-exis­tent in the East and vice ver­sa.

Something different

Islamic Art l Seize Your Life For many peo­ple, glass­mak­ing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when some­one says, “Art.”. Yet the Islam­ic Arts dom­i­nat­ed this depart­ment for most of the Mid­dle Ages. Hav­ing “inher­it­ed” most of the glass-pro­duc­ing ter­ri­to­ries of the Sas­sanid and Roman Empires. It soon became appar­ent that the beau­ty of those as men­tioned ear­li­er “Islam­ic” veg­e­ta­tive and geo­met­ri­cal motifs. When applied to glass was near unmatched. This art form was also read­i­ly dis­played and thus wide­ly con­sumed. This wide­spread demand both from with­in the Caliphates and from. With­out allowed said art form to evolve at a neck-break­ing pace with dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of effects used for Beau­ty becom­ing more and more com­pli­cat­ed. Let it also be not­ed that it believed- though not sure -. That those pri­mar­i­ly respon­si­ble for such great pieces of art were Jew­ish minori­ties in var­i­ous cities.

The Dome of the Rock

Islamic Art l Seize Your Life As one couldn’t talk about sur­re­al­ism with­out talk­ing about Pablo Picas­so or Sal­vador Dali, one couldn’t com­plete an arti­cle talk­ing about Islam­ic Arts with­out men­tion­ing the Dome of the Rock. The ear­li­est among the sev­er­al grand Islam­ic archi­tec­ture works of art, the Dome of the Rock is a shrine on Tem­ple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is con­sid­ered to be among the sacred sites for the reli­gion of Islam. It is also an excel­lent piece of archi­tec­ture dec­o­rat­ed with mosaics in the Byzan­tine style (minus the depic­tion of humans). Also dec­o­rat­ed by faience and mar­ble. It dis­plays what is per­haps the begin­ning of a great tra­di­tion in the art of tiling in the Islam­ic world. It was in the Dome’s image that many high build­ings were built through­out his­to­ry. Such build­ings are the Mau­soleum of Sul­tan Suleiman, the Mag­nif­i­cent locat­ed in Istan­bul, and the New Syn­a­gogue in Berlin. Suleiman the Mag­nif­i­cent, in par­tic­u­lar, was fas­ci­nat­ed by the Dome of the Rock. As it is known that he was the one that had the inscrip­tion “Surah Ya-Sin” (Heart of the Qu’ran) across the top of its tile work. The Dome of the Rock has suf­fered a lot of destruc­tion through­out the cen­turies. Both by human inter­fer­ence and by time itself. Yet, it still stands as a mon­u­ment of the Islam­ic Arts. And it’s con­sid­ered the most rec­og­niz­able land­mark of Jerusalem.

A closing remark

Arabic ceramic plates with multicolored patterns on the Bazaar Art is a world­wide phe­nom­e­non. It is, for many, what gives pur­pose to human life. A way to express what we think is right and beau­ti­ful about life and a way to achieve spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. It is one of the few ways that humankind has dis­cov­ered that achieves- in a way- immor­tal­i­ty. Artists both from Europe and those that prac­ticed the Islam­ic Arts signed their works for that very rea­son. So that their actions would remain and remind peo­ple of artists who are long gone and the great­ness of which they were capable. We ought to val­ue all art as well as the cul­tures that have pro­mot­ed them more for that very rea­son. As for Islam, regard­less of your views on it. It is vital to under­stand its cul­tur­al and soci­etal sig­nif­i­cance and to show some respect for it. Please, don’t let any­one turn you into a hat­ing beast that sees ugli­ness every­where it looks. There’s more beau­ty out there than any­one could hope to imag­ine. Start look­ing for it instead 🙂

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join Our Mailing List To Receive The Latest News and Updates From Our Team. Don't Miss a Post! Get the Weekly Newsletter Sent Right to Your Inbox!

You have Successfully Subscribed!