Calligraphy is the chief tool employed by Muslim artists. Every picture found in Islamic art uses this impressive writing style, which contains Arabic letters arranged in different ways to create intricate designs and patterns. The materials used for this art form range from paint and canvas oils to metal-works, fabric and pottery. The use of color and detail presents a picture that not only looks good but makes you think and inquire deeper about it. The sultans or kings of the time encouraged these art forms by allowing them to be used in the architecture or buildings of that period. An example of this is the Cordoba Mosque in Spain and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The drawings are very decorative even though they just use the letters of the Arabic language to create artistic images.
Islam forbids the depiction of animals and people in pictures. The reason for this is that Muslims are taught not to hold an image of any living object and associate it to the religion; thus forbidding the glorification of idols or objects. Instead, Muslims incorporate floral and inanimate designs in their art along with calligraphy. Shapes such as squares, triangles, oblongs and circles are also used as alternatives to living objects.
Significance of the Arabic Language
An important part of Islamic Art is the Arabic language. It is the original language of the Qur'an. Unlike English, Arabic is read from right to left and has 29 letters in its alphabet. It also has small symbols above or below letters to show a short or long vowel. This makes it unique in its form and allows for artistic development. There are forms of Islamic pictures that only contain calligraphy and are yet appealing to the eye. The words and design are so well entwined that it flows into a masterpiece of beauty. At the time when it was being perfected Sultans would have artists decorate mosques, palaces, buildings and walls. Arabic calligraphy is considered to be a very noble art form because of its association with the Qur'an.
Islamic Fabric & Rugs
Artful fabrics and rugs from the Islamic tradition date back to the early seventh century. This tradition of making decorative rugs and elaborate fabrics started with simple embroidery and fancy stitching, and developed over the years all over the Muslim world. Nowadays it can be seen in fabrics such as bed linens, prayer mats, tablecloths and quilts. Today, rugs made in many Muslim countries, like Iran, Pakistan, Syria and Turkey are highly valued for their decorative designs.
The influence of Islamic art is particularly evident in the Middle East where Islam originated. Its lettering styles have been improved and expanded upon over the years -- from the cursive styles of Thuluth to more angular and ornate styles. The most modern of the styles is Al-Khat al-hurr, which was developed in the last twenty years. It represents a very decorative, stylized, free flowing writing.
Through continuous updating and evolution, this art form has survived the test of time. These days, there is a large demand for such goods for tourism, as most of the tourist sites in Muslim countries are highly embellished with forms of Islamic art. This is not a bad thing, but it would be tragic if it were the only reason why this art form was kept alive today.
Whichever form of Islamic Art you are exposed to, you should bear in mind that each piece shows a celebration of daily life. It opens the doorway to true beauty and builds a path towards discovering the rich history and culture that is steeped with infinite possibilities. The experience of Islamic Art leaves its brilliant use of color, design and form engraved in the beholder.