Islamic Art
Islamic art is perhaps the most accessible manifestation of a complex
civilization that often seems enigmatic to outsiders. Through its brilliant use of
color and its superb balance between design and form, Islamic art creates an
immediate visual impact. Its strong aesthetic appeal transcends distances in time
and space, as well as differences in language, culture, and creed. Islamic art not
only invites a closer look but also beckons the viewer to learn more.

“The term Islamic art may be confusing to some. It not only describes the
art created specifically in the service of , but it also characterizes secular art
produced in lands under Islamic rule or influence, whatever the artist’s or the
patron’s religious affiliation. The term suggests an art unified in style and
purpose, and indeed there are certain common features that distinguish the arts
of all Islamic lands.”1 Although this is a highly dynamic art, which is often marked
by strong regional characteristics as well as by significant influences from other
cultures, it retains an overall coherence that is remarkable given its vast
geographic and temporal boundaries. Of paramount concern to the development
of this singular art is Islam itself, which fostered the creation of a distinctive visual
culture with its own unique artistic language. Calligraphy is the most important
and pervasive element in Islamic art. It has always been considered the noblest
form of art because of its association with the , the Muslim holy book, which is
written in Arabic. This preoccupation with beautiful writing extended to all arts
including secular manuscripts; inscriptions on palaces; and those applied to
metalwork, pottery, stone, glass, wood, and textiles and to non-Arabic-speaking
peoples within the Islamic commonwealth whose languages such as Persian,
Turkish, and Urdu were written in the Arabic script. Another characteristic of
Islamic art is a preference for covering surfaces with patterns composed of
geometric or vegetal elements. Complex geometric designs, as well as intricate
patterns of vegetal ornament (such as the arabesque), create the impression of
unending repetition, which is believed by some to be an inducement to
contemplate the infinite nature of God. This type of nonrepresentational
decoration may have been developed to such a high degree in Islamic art
because of the absence of figural imagery, at least within a religious context.

Contrary to a popular misconception, however, figural imagery is an
important aspect of Islamic art. Such images occur primarily in secular and
especially courtly arts and appear in a wide variety of media and in most periods
and places in which Islam flourished. It is important to note, nevertheless, that
representational imagery is almost invariably restricted to a private context.

Figurative art is excluded from the decoration of religious monuments. This
absence may be attributed to an Islamic antipathy toward anything that might be
mistaken for idols or idolatry, which are explicitly forbidden by the Qur’an. In
Islamic cultures the so-called decorative arts provide the primary means of
artistic expression, in contrast to Western art, in which painting and sculpture are
preeminent. Illuminated manuscripts, woven textiles and carpets, inlaid
metalwork, blown glass, glazed ceramics, and carved wood and stone all
absorbed the creative energies of artists, becoming highly developed art forms.

These works include small-scale objects of daily use, such as delicate glass
beakers, as well as more monumental architectural decoration, for example,
glazed tile panels from building facades. Such objects were meticulously
fabricated and carefully embellished, often with rare and costly materials,
suggesting that the people for whom they were made sought to surround
themselves with beauty.

Royal patronage played an important role in the making of Islamic art, as
it has in the arts of other cultures. The construction of mosques and other
religious buildings. including their decoration and furnishings, was the
responsibility of the ruler and the prerogative of high court officials. Such
monuments not only provided for the spiritual needs of the community but often
served educational and charitable functions as well. Royal patronage of secular
art was also a standard feature of Islamic sovereignty, one that enabled the ruler
to demonstrate the splendor of his court and, by extension, the superiority of his
state. Evidence of courtly patronage is derived from the works of art themselves,
but an equally important source of information is the extensive body of historical
texts that attest to royal sponsorship of the arts almost throughout the Islamic
period. These historical works also indicate that only a fraction of such
court-sponsored art has survived; objects made of precious materials are
particularly rare. From the fourteenth century onward, especially in eastern
Islamic lands, the arts of the book provide the best documentation of courtly
patronage.

Of course, not all works of Islamic art were sponsored by the court; in fact,
the majority of objects and manuscripts in museum collections originated
elsewhere. Such works of art including pottery, base metalware, carpets, and
textiles have often been viewed as the products of urban, middle-class
patronage. These objects nonetheless frequently reflect the same styles and
make use of the same forms and techniques employed in courtly art. Whether
produced in a courtly or an urban setting or for a religious context, Islamic art is
generally the work of anonymous artists. A notable exception is in the sphere of
the arts of the book. The names of certain calligraphers are well known, which is
not surprising given the primacy of the written word in Islam, as are those of a
number of painters, most of whom were attached to a particular court. The
identification of these artists has been based on signed or attributed examples of
their works and on textual references. Given the great number of extant
examples, comparatively few signatures are found on metalwork, pottery, carved
wood and stone, and textiles. Those signatures that do occur, combined with
rare evidence from contemporary textual sources, suggest that families of artists,
often over several generations, specialized in a particular medium or technique.

Some of the famous Arts are in the Building and Architecture. They build
mosques to worship and praise in. In the mosques they built gates which “is a
monumental, highly decorated structure set into a usually plain facade (front)
facing the street.”2 You can find some of these gates in such building as the The
Dome of the Rock and in the most famous tomb of the Taj Mahal. Now only few
buildings are still around, but the cities still rank the highest in beauty.
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem signifies and serves as a perfect
example of the brilliancy behind Islamic art. The Dome of the Rock contains all
the major characteristics throughout the whole architectural building, which
includes calligraphy, patterns of visual and geometrical elements, figural
imagery, and illuminated manuscripts. ” The Dome of the Rock is often called the
first work of Islamic architecture, and if it is the building must be the finest first
effort in the history of architecture.”3
The Dome Of The Rock, Jerusalem 692 and later
The interior view of The Dome of the rock. Where many believe Abraham offered to sacrifice
Isaac
The gates of Taj Mahal 2003
The Taj Mahaul was built for the empire and his wife. It is one of the most
formal themes that a building can contain. “Its refined elegance is a
conspicuous contrast both to the Hindu architecture of pre-Islamic India, with its
thick walls, corbeled arches, and heavy lintels, and to the Indo-Islamic styles, in
which Hindu elements are combined with an eclectic assortment of motifs from
Persian and Turkish sources.”4
With all the beautiful structures and elements of Islam, you would never
know how strict the region was. In Islamic cultures the so-called decorative arts
provide the primary means of artistic expression. They showed their beautiful
creativity in all their work such in the buildings, books, and the carvings. This
may be why it