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Exploring the world of Islamic art through the lens of art and architecture

Islamic art represents the literary, performing and visual art of the Islamic culture. The people who belonged to the Islamic culture created a massive array of literary texts, performing arts, visual arts and music, which makes it hard to define Islamic art. In simple terms, the art related to the Islamic culture includes only those pieces that are derived directly from the traditions and practices of Islam. However, in a more common sense, this domain of art is said to encompass all artistry that is put together by Muslims, irrespective of whether it is in alignment with the Islamic religion or not. 


Calligraphy is a popular art form in Islamic art. Religious sermons with verses from the Quran were incorporated in secular objects such as coins, tiles and metalwork. Many miniature paintings had inscriptions on them. This was also seen in the architecture of the Islamic tradition as well. Other calligraphic designs included poetry verses. The main scripts that were used in Islamic calligraphy were kufic and naskh scripts. 


Although the depiction of animals and human beings in pictorial representation isn’t forbidden in Islamic scriptures, it is looked down upon, as it is related to Abrahamic laws that deem it an act of idolatry. However, over the years, with different scholars and different historical periods coming into the picture, there have been occurrences of human and animal paintings. A few examples of these were seen in Mughal, Persian and Turkish art. While wall paintings were a common occurrence in Islamic traditions, specifically in Persian art, miniature paintings seemed to have made a more lasting impact. Persian miniature art was the earliest among the Islamic traditions. This form later influenced the Ottoman miniatures of Turkey and the Mughal miniatures in India. Since this was mainly seen in king’s courts, there was more relaxation on the constraints of animal and human imagery.

Rugs and Carpets

Among all the forms of Islamic art, the craftsmanship of Islamic rugs and carpets is the most celebrated. The pile carpet otherwise known as the Oriental rug was known for its versatility. It is commonly used in everyday life by Muslims, as floor coverings, architectural showcases, cushions, bolsters and so on. It is also used in religious spots as a prayer rug. Carpet weaving is an inherent tradition in Islamic societies. 


Islamic art has made much progress in the domain of ceramics. Pottery and tiles for walls were taken to the next level as compared to the other cultures of the world. One of the earliest technological inventions of Islamic potters was the development of tin-opacified glazing. 


As opposed to the other Islamic traditions of the world, the Mughal Empire did not use tiling as much. In some cases, ‘parchin-kari’ , a form of pietra dura decoration that is laid on panels of semi-precious stones. The most common example of this art form is seen in the Taj Mahal as well as the Agra Fort. 


Q1. What is unique about Islamic art? 

Islamic art is centred on the spiritual depiction of things and living beings, not their physical attributes. The Islamic artist does not try to recreate nature as it is but showcases what it signifies. This helps one get closer to Allah. 

Q2. How is Islamic art different from other forms of art? 

Two important elements that are given importance in Islamic art unlike other kinds of art are floral patterns and calligraphy. Muslim artists selected flowers and trees as their form of symbolism to represent the embellishment of cloth, objects, personal items and buildings.

Q3. How has Islamic art created an impact on a global scale? 

It has been a motivating force in the manufacturing of a vast variety of art forms including ceramics, metalwork, photography, theatre, architecture and music.