Art of Islam and Effects of Islamic Culture | The presence of art – that is to say, of techniques beautifying man’s surroundings and of the evaluation of things made or built by and for society or individuals – is generally assumed for all cultures. And in each place this art has been affected by ideological, social, religious, historical, or geographical constraints. This explains why individual civilizations have artistic traditions which differ from each other. let’s see art of islam in the islamic world!
Islamic culture is of course, no exception, and this chapter will elaborate on a few of these constraints. Firstly, there are the complex ways in which Islamic culture recognized,
accepted, or rejected. The historical past in inherited or conquered regions. A second constraint consists of features imposed or implied by the new faith. Although interpreted differently over the centuries. These are altogether permanent and constant characteristics of Islamic civilization and art of islam.,
Art of islam in the islamic world!
The special case of art of islam and the mosque, which was not rechnically a requirement of the faith at its inception. But which became a constantly evolving requirement. Sign of Muslim presence, is a third example of a particularly Islamic development and constraint. The last two constraints that developed derived from particularly original features of Islamic culture.
One is the encounter of the new faith with the ancient philosophy of classical Greece, and with the mathematics, technology. And natural sciences available in the Mediterranean world
in late antiquity. In Iran, in India, and even in China.
This occurred first in Baghdad, the center of Muslim thought and rule. And then expanded slowly and eventually, nearly everywhere in the region.
The other is the character of the literature created in the Islamic world. Like all literatures of this time, it was meant both to edify and to please. In the forms it developed in Iran from the 12th century onwards. It was a literature of universally effective lyricism and had a considerable impact on the arts.
Art of Islam and Muslim life,
Muslim thought and the literature of Muslim lands are but two of several social and cultural constraints influencing the arts. Possibly the only ones which have affected the whole Muslim world. Other constraints, for instance Left: Holy man in pavilion, 1553. Illustration from Jami’s Rose Garden of the Picus, Washington, Arthur Sackler Gallery Text. And image combine to form a handsome ensemble reminiscent of a theatrical stage. A Sufi holy man seems imprisoned in a richly decorated pavilion.
The two inquisitive characters in a window, the doubting smile on the face of the hero. And the contradiction between ascetic mysticism. And luxurious surroundings introduce a slightly satirical note to the miniature.
Art of Islam and Arabic!
Art of the mix of ethnic and social communities or religious diversity within Islam itself. Vary in importance and impact from area to area and period to period. And do not lend themselves as easily to broad definitions. But it is important to remain aware of their existence.
Early Arabian art Islam was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in western Arabia in the early 7th century.
Later Muslim historiography defined this period as a “time of ignorance” (the jahiliya). In the primary sense of a spiritually unenlightened period. But also as a time of relatively limited cultural achievement. This was always, however, with the exception of poetry. Which became an exemplar both for its themes and for its forms.
Whether western Arabia was indeed at this time in a state of cultural and artistic poverty is a matter of some debate. Few artistic remains are directly connected with the area, and only the site of al-Faw in Saudi Arabia has been excavated, partly at least. Luxury and other manufactured items, such as they existed, were for the most part. Imported from elsewhere, primarily Egypt and the Mediterranean. But also India, which was much involved in the Arabian trade.
Architecture of islamic world!
Architecture was hardly present in terms of major monuments, but the societies of western Arabia, nomadic and settled, did possess spatial concepts, as illustrated by a rich vocabulary dealing with boundaries between different kinds of places and with permanent or ephemeral sacred enclosures.
And the Kaaba in Mecca, which became the holiest spot in Islam. The direction (qibla) towards which all Muslims pray and the goal of the pilgrimage (hajj). Pre-Islamic sanctuary that had been used for centuries by pagan tribes. Although occasionally modified, its basic shape was the same; before Islam. The practice of covering it with an expensive cloth accent. Its use as a shrine for idols and a focus for all the religions of the Arabian Peninsula.
Art of Islam; Wild cat art work,
Wild cat relief, Qasr al-Hair al-Gharbi, 8th century, Palmyra Archaeclogica Museum Palaces such as Qasr al-Hair al-Gharbi, which the Umayyads built in the Syrian desert, are prominent examples of the secular art that flourished around the Mediterranean in late antiquity. Their decoration of paintings, mosaics, and sculptures is striking for the wealth of its subject matter.
There are hundreds of representations of people and of animals, typical of the ancient world. As well as rich geometric ornamentation, expressing the new Islamic decorative style.
Other part of Arabian,
Other parts of the vast Arabian world had experienced often brilliant artistic history. Not much is left of it in the Yemen, except for remote temples and spectacular irrigation works used to control the flow of an often unpredictable water supply. Medieval sources often described the tall buildings of that land, and the memory of their sculpted decoration, for instance roaring lions on top of buildings, entered the realm of myth and fantasy.
The most spectacular and best-known pre-Islamic Arabian cultures were those of the Nabataeans, centered on Petra in Jordan, and of Palmyra, farther north; both are now celebrated tourist attractions. These Arab kingdoms left a major architectural tradition, strongly
influenced by Hellenistic and Roman imperial models and practices and especially in Palmyra, impressive sculpture in temples and, above all, necropolises.
Medieval Islamic written sources,
Even though the remains of Nabataean and Palmyran art must have been even more spectacular in the Middle Ages than they are today, there is practically no acknowledgment of the existence of that art in medieval Islamic written sources and very little in artistic remains.
Here and there – for instance in the sculpture of the Umayyad palace of Qasr al-Hair al-Gharbi in the Syrian steppe – the impact of neighboring Palmyra is clear and some have argued that certain features of early Islamic representational art – deeply drilled eyes in sculpture and lack of facial expression in paintings – should be related to the styles and techniques of these early Arabian kingdoms.
But, outside of the obvious example of Qasr al-Hair al-Gharbi, the relationship, while not impossible, is difficult to demonstrate. It seems, then, proper to conclude that the great and original Arabian cultures which developed in the north of the Arabian peninsula, between Syria and Iraq, under the aegis of the Hellenistic and Roman empires, were indeed barely present, if not wilfully obliterated, in the collective memory of traditional Islam.
ART OF ISLAM AND CULTURE IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD,
This is not so in the instance of two tribal Arabian kingdoms, those of the Lakhmids and the Ghassanids, which flourished during the centuries before Islam in the steppe borderlands of Iraq and Syria and Palestine of the Arab tribes of the desert.
The rich sculpture of Palmyra demonstrates a magnificent synthesis of several traditions of representation from all over the Mediterranean and Iran Palmyra, Syria This oasis, halfway between Damascus and the Euphrates, was an important center for east-west trade until the 3rd century: Chinese silks were discovered in its ruins.
Hellenistic and Roman,
Its enormous temple complex and colonnaded streets, now in ruins, owe much to Hellenistic and Roman urban architecture, but the religion and cul- ture of Palmyra belonged to the Semitic world respectively.
They are usually remembered for their role as client states of Byzantium and Sassanian Iran, protecting each empire from the other.
However, they were also significant cultural entities of their own with a considerable impact on the following centuries, if not necessarily during their flowering in the 5th and 6th centuries. The Lakhmid palace of Khawarnaq in southern Iraq remained as a monument of fabled luxury even in much later Persian poetry.
The first steps towards a differentiated Arabic script took place under the aegis of the same dynasty, while the Ghassanids sponsored the construction of many buildings in Syria, one of which, an audience hall, still stands in Rusafa, in the northern Syrian steppe, and includes an inscription in Greek celebrating the king al-Mundhir.
Altogether, the Arabian past seems to have played a relatively small role in the development of Islamic art, especially if forms are considered exclusively. Its importance was greater in the collective memories it created and in the Arabic vocabulary for visual identification knowledges it provided for future generations.
It is, of course, true that the vast peninsula has not been as well investigated as it should be and that surprises may well await archeologists in the future.
At this stage of scholarly knowledge, however, it is probably fair to say that Islam’s Arabian past, essential for understanding the faith and its practices, and the Arabic language and its literature, is not as important for the forms used by Islamic art as the immensely richer.
ART OF ISLAM, THE ISLAMIC WORLD
Such build nomads or rival families. Medieval texts describe, before the appearance of Islam, quasi legendary palaces built in this foshion, crowned with statues of ions that roared as De wind blew through ther. It is unclear how much in these description is mythological and how much corresponds to some 7th century reality world, from the Atlantic Ocean to Central Asia, taken over by Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries.
Even later, after centuries of independent growth, new conquests in Anatolia or India continued to introduce new local themes and ideas into the mainstream of Islamic art. It is only today, in line with national aspirations for traditions related to a land as much as to a culture, that interest in the pre-Islamic monuments of Arabian history has increased.
Islamic attitudes to art Over the centuries, many different stanudes toward the arts came to high within the west islamic world and it is altopther, imposible to talk of singles of principles which determined the course of antimic development. Burit is possible to argue that Islam’s initial revelation, the Koran, contains passages and points of view on which artinudes to the arts could
be, and often were, based.
Art of Islam, Islamic Sketch,
Many of them acquired different interpreta cons over the centuries and it should some day be possible to sketch out. There are, Best of all, references to categories of manufacture and of
construction. One set of examples involves concrete and unique items, all of which relate to Solomon, the King Prophet whose patronage of works of art was legendary and whose artisans were usually the no less legendary jinns.
He ordered the making of a fountain of molten brass, a Muslim adaptation of the celebrated Brazen Sea in Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, as described in the Old Testament (Koran 34,12).
Then, the jinns manufactured for him wahari (pl. of mibrah), statues, cooking ves sels, and cableware (34, 13). The word mihrab reappears several times in the Koran: i had several meanings before becoming attached primarily to a niche in the back of the mosque, about which more will be said further on, Essentially it means a place of honor, but it is difficult to know exactly whar was meant in the context of this passage.
The interesting point about some of these items made by the jions is that they are very practical, almost of daily use, and could be related to the great originality of later Islamic art which developed a devotion to the beautification of common objects plates, ewers, candlesticks, pen boxes, and so forth.Just as Solomon had done, it was proper to give attention to one’s manmade surroundings Another passage dealing with Solomon is more complicated.
In order to test the Queen of Sheba, and ulumarely to demonstrate his superiority over her, Solomon orders the construction of a sarh covered with or built of slabs of glass or of crystal (27.45).
The exact meaning of the word warb is the subject of much controversy and it may be easier to think of it as some sort of constructed space, without uying to be more precise. The peculiarity of whatever it is that Solomon built is that it is sup posed to be interpreted by the Queen of Sheba as a body of water, as something different from what it really is.
The plous implications of the story need nor concern us here, but what is important?
Another passage dealing with Solomon is more complicated. In order to test the Queen of Sheba, and ultimately to demonstrate his superiority over her, Solomon orders the construction of a sarh covered with or built of slabs of glass or of crystal (27,45).
The exact meaning of the word sarh is the subject of much controversy and it may be easier to think of it as some sort of constructed space, without trying to be more precise. The peculiarity of whatever it is that Solomon built is that it is sup posed to be interpreted by the Queen of Sheba as a body of water, as something different from what it really is.
Stories from Koran!
The pious implications of the story need not concern us here. But what is important is that a work is manufactured in order to create an illusion of reality. Two aspects of the story are pertinent to Islamic attitudes toward the arts. In partial contradiction with each other. One is that a work of art is something to wonder about, to be amazed by. It belongs to the category of wondrous things that became known as the ajaib (pl. of ajib, “wonderful” “or “astonishing”), a term used constantly to praise manufactured items of all sorts.
The other implication is that a work of art is a falsehood, a lie, because it gives you the impression of something that it is not. It can be seen, trines to do so. There was, in particular, the passage which relates how Jesus gave life to the effigy of a bird. As a miracle showing that God alone has the power to bestow life (3,47-49).
The unique omnipotence of God is an essential feature of Islam and one of its corollaries is the absolute opposition to idols (for instance 6,74). The artistic representation of life was seen as idolatry and eventually considered sinful by most theologians. But real Islam never forbids creating art, Islam is just against praying the idols instead of God.
According to many traditions, artists would be expected, on the day of the Last Judgment. To put life into their creation and to be tossed into the fire of hell when they fail to do so.
This prohibition was, of course, loosely applied, and many a treatise argued matters differently. Yet, it did affect Islamic art in several ways. The faith itself could not be expressed through images and. Thus, piety had to find other ways to be shown visually, at least in more formal art. One way, as has been argued by many, was through writing and the promotion of calligraphy to a sort of sacred art form.
Efects on Art of Islam!
Another effect may well have been the importance taken by secula arts especially artisanal ones. During centuries when, almost everywhere else religious art portantly sacred writings especially artisanal ones. During centuries when, almost everywhere else, religious art dominated.
And, perhaps more importantly, sacred writings did not become a continuous source of inspiration for artists. There are exceptions, no doubt, especially after the 13th century. And in the Iran-influenced world, or in folk art.
But they are, for the most part, rare and the expression of the faith did not form a major aspect of Islamic art outside architecture and calligraphy. Two last themes affecting Islamic art from the very beginning deserve mention.
One is the very vivid, visual, and often very precise, descriptions of Paradise with its gardens, fountains, and pavilions. It is possible that these descriptions and evocations had an almost immediate impact on the decorative arts of the Muslims and some have argued that the mosaic decoration of the Great Mosque in Damascus of the early 8th century included a represen-
tation of that Muslim Paradise. And Paradise is forcefully evoked in the gardens of 17th century Moghul India.
Metter of debate!
Whether or not the theme has always been present when scholars saw it is a matter of debate, but its existence throughout Islamic art is certain. Then, more recently, some architects and urban designers from the Muslim world have argued that, by making man his viceregent on earth, a central theme of the Koran, God has entrusted the earth to man.
As a result, the preservation of nature in a healthy state is part of the Muslim message and several attempts have been made in recent years to design houses, urban complexes, even whole cities in terms of respect for the environment as inspired by the faith.
Islamic context The building known as a mosque le permanently and appropriately andate with the presence of Islam. Bar in is not possible to straply transfer whatever meaning churches, temples or synagoguex have in other religions into the The Arabic word mavid, from which all foms of mosque” derive appears frequently in the Koran.
Technically it means “place of prostration, that is to say, the place where believers bow their heads to the ground in veneration of God and as part of a well-defined coal of prayes the main action required every day of all Muslims in order to express the faith in a passage which was frequently used in inscripcions (Koran 9.18),
te is said that “Only he shall inhabit God’s places of Worship whe believes in God and the Last Day, and performs the prayers and pays the alms, and fears none but God alone.” What
is implied here is not a specific and new kind of building, something which did not really exist at the time of the Prophet, but a space reserved for the community of believers in which they can gather to pray, and to deal with communal affairs.
Mosque of Medina
Such spaces could be anywhere, for example in a private house (as with the house of the Prophet in Medina, which later became the Mosque of Medina), or in an open space, where most rudimentary elements like stones served as symbolic more than real boundaries, as was the case for many centuries with the musallas (literally places for prayer”) found on the edges of many traditional cities. It was during the first century of Islam that the mosque emerged as a separate and individualized building with an architectural typology of its own and with a set of technical requirements peculiar to it.
This was the result of the conquest of so many different lands where Muslims had to find or build their own restricted spaces, and of the foundation, especially in Iraq, of new cities primarily for Arabs emigrating from the Arabian Peninsula. Kufa and Basra were the main early examples of the latter, but Baghdad, Fustat (Cairo’s predecessor), and Kairouan, in Tunisia, were also new
cities created primarily for Muslims.
These developments, as well as the Muslim encounter with the sanctuaries of many other religions. Led eventually (the developmental details are not always clear) to a functional rypology of Muslim religious spaces which is reflected. As late as the 14th century, in the North African polymath Ibn Khaldun’s (1332-1406) celebrated Muqaddima (Preface) to his chronicle of the Muslim west.
The three pan-Islamic sanctuaries,
Simplifying matters slightly, one should distinguish between what we can call “sanctuaries” and mosques, even though the term masjid is used for both. Sanctuaries are true holy places. Divinely endowed with some special sanctity. Their pious meaning or meanings are known and significant to all Muslims and extend much beyond their own space.
Three of them are truly pan-Islamic. One is the Haram (meaning “sacred enclosure”) in Mecca itself. It is not only the direction of prayer for Muslims wherever they are, but is also associated
with Abraham. Venerated as a holy man (hanaf) and the first Muslim, who is Namazgah in Goa. India and the minbar Namazgahs, mosques consisting only of an towers.
These, however did not function as enclosed space and a cibla wall. But which minarets, from which the call to prayer was could accommodate large numbers of people who gathered for prayer were frequently built issued. But marked the boundaries of the mosque in relation to the surrounding space near towns.
Here can be seen the most important features of a mosque. The mihrab as well as low-lying conical believed to have first built. The Kaaba, and the site of several sacred spots directly boked with Abraham’s son Ismail and with the Prophet Muhammad.
It is also the place to which all Muslims must come as pilgrims at least once in their lifetime. All sorts of complex liturgical practices have developed around the pilgrimage (haj). Just as, in the transformation of Mecca from an ancient Arabian to an Islamic holy place. Many different influences have come, gone, or been added to the space of the Haram. These changes may have found a physical expression in the site itself – in the form of buildings, donated
treasures, accumulated booty – thus clearly making the Meccan Haram a model example for the study of sanctuaries.
The second pan-Islamic sanctuary is that of the Mosque (known as al-Munawwara, “The Illuminated One”) of Medina. The city of the Prophet located in western Arabia, north of Mecca. It had been Muhammad’s house, which was transformed shortly after his death. Into a mosque and rebuilt in the early 8th century as a typical courtyard mosque, on a rectangular ground plan
and its courtyard surrounded by hypostyle halls.
Tomb of the Prophet,
The tomb of the Prophet, enclosed as a separate entity, is located in the southeastern area of the covered part of the mosque. Over the centuries different views have been expressed about the importance of this tomb. In a Muslim context, given that Islam’s strict monotheism forbids the veneration of saints. And some particularly rigorous theologians have wanted to remove it from the mosque.
But there is no doubt that it is the life of the Prophet that created and still dominates the holiness of this mosque. Which is an expected, if not required, stopping-place for pilgrims.
The third pan-Islamic sanctuary is the Haram al-Sharif (“Noble Sanctuary”) in Jerusalem, also known as the Mosque of the City. Its huge space had been determined by the size of the Jewish Temple built by Herod the Great and destroyed by the Romans.
Style of Mosque,
A mosque was built there shortly after the conquest of Palestine by the Muslims. And then in 691 Abd al-Malik (685-705) erected the spectacular Dome of the Rock which still dominates the city.
Dozens of other buildings were constructed over the centuries, most of them of very high quality. And several themes were associated with the site according to a rhythmic evolution which is still poorly understood.
These echo in part the current situation between Jerusalem and the sanctuary in Mecca, and
also the relationship with the Jewish tradition. There was also the theme of the miraculous Night Journey of the Prophet and his Ascension to the heavens (which he started with his foot on the rock for which the building is named), the celebrated miraj often illustrated by later Persian painters.
The third pan-Islamic sanctuary,
There are various Old Testament themes associated with this place, known as the tomb of Adam. As well as as the spot where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. Jerusalem also has eschatological significance, as the appointed place for the Last Judgment. The Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem inspired a far more remarkable architecture than the other two sanctuaries. Especially
in the 14th and 15th centuries, when it became a showplace for Mamluk patronage, but, although a significant pilgrimage site. It never acquired the universal visitation obligation of the two Arabian sanctuaries.
Its importance within the Muslim world as a whole varied a great deal over the centuries. In addition to these three pan-Islamic holy places, more restricted or limited sanctuaries also developed. These were usually associated with funerary cults and always transformed into places of pilgrimage.
They are often called mashahid (plural. of mashhad, “place of witnessing”). Important examples are the major Shiite mashahid in Meshed and Qum in Iran, and in Najaf and Kerbela in Iraq. Smaller funerary sanctuaries, often commemorating the place of burial of a holy man. Or the presence of a prophet from pre-Islamic times, are found in many places from Morocco to Indonesia.
Fundamentalist leaders have always objected to the existence of these sanctuaries on the grounds that Islam does not formally recognize the existence of inter mediaries. Or intercessors other than the Prophet, or, in Shism, the imams descending from Ali. But popular piety often overwhelmed these theological objections.
ART AND CULTURE!
Structure and function of the mosque Turning now to the mosque itself, it should be recalled that to a Muslim any place suitable for prayer. Even a temporary one, is a mosque, and thousands of small mosques exist, restricted to a family, a quarter, or a corporation of some
But from the very beginning, when the Prophet gathered the community into his house in Medina. The notion arose of a location which is not so much a religious space as one restricted to the Muslim community.
It was originally meant for prayer, especially for the collective prayer suggested, if not required of all Muslims on Fridays. But also for swearing of allegiance to princes and their representatives, as well as for teaching, tax collection, announcements of all sorts. And most aspects of social and political life…
This space for the collective, ideally all male Muslims in a given settlement, was called a masjid al-jami. “the mosque of the community,” sometimes expressed as the “Friday mosque.”
Art of Islam: Turkish Camii,
By the end of the Middle Ages the word jami (Turkish.: cami) became a common equivalent to masjid. The only initial requirement of a mosque was a space large enough to contain the whole population of a given settlement.
A wall. (at the beginning simply a ditch), separated it from other parts of the city.
This space was oriented toward the qibla (direction for prayer, towards Mecca) by being provided with a deep covered area on the appropriate side.
Little by little, other requirements were introduced: a mihrab or niche on the qibla wall to emphasize the direction of prayer. And to commemorate the presence of the Prophet in the midst of his followers; a minbar or pulpit from which the sermon (khutba) was given. At times, a magsura, a space reserved for the ruler and
his entourage. Various platforms for readers of the Koran and of other pious works; a minaret, which served to denote the presence of a Muslim center and eventually to call the faithful to prayer.
Features of mosques,
Some of these features, like the mihrab, are found in all mosques. Others like the minbar, were initially restricted to mosques in cities with governors appointed by the caliphs. Whereas a feature like the minaret, grew into the most visible feature of Islamic architecture anywhere.
For, as Ibn Khaldun emphasized in his great theoretical work, the building and upkeep of mosques was the responsibility of the state. Because its primary purpose was the maintenance of the cohesion of the community of the faithful.