Islamic Art: Its Nature and Form

16 Aug 2014

Islamic art saw its documented beginnings sometime in the 7th century. While the name might be misleading many to believe that the art form is dedicated to represent the Muslim faith; that is not true. Islamic art encompasses the elements that represent the Islamic way of life which is characterized through art and architecture. The art has a particular structure and discipline that is evident through all its representative forms. Islamic art can be seen in monuments, decorative themes, motifs and even fabric and textile prints and designs.

Unlike Christian art, Islamic art isn’t restricted to religious work, but includes all the artistic traditions in Muslim culture. Its strong aesthetic appeal transcends time and space, as well as differences in language and culture. With its geographic spread and long history, Islamic art was inevitably subject to a wide range of regional and even national styles and influences as well as changes within the various periods of its development. It is all the more remarkable then that, even under these circumstances, Islamic art has always retained its intrinsic quality and unique identity. The art of the Islamic world reflects its cultural values, and reveals the way Muslims view the spiritual realm and the universe. Just as the religion of Islam embodies a way of life and serves as a cohesive force among ethnically and culturally diverse peoples, the art produced by and for Muslim societies has basic identifying and unifying characteristics. Perhaps the most salient of these is the predilection for all-over surface decoration. The four basic components of Islamic ornament are calligraphy, vegetate patterns, geometric patterns, and figurative representations.

The integration of arts and crafts into everyday life was very much the norm in the traditional Islamic world. The idea is that as Islam is integral to every part of a Muslim’s life and makes it beautiful, so Islamic art should be used to make the things of everyday life beautiful.

In Qatar the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha houses a large collection that includes manuscripts, textiles and ceramics. The items in the museum have been gathered from around the world including countries like Spain, Egypt, India, Turkey and Central Asia. The purpose-built structure, designed by architect IM Pei, has attracted praise from across the Gulf Region and beyond. The large permanent collection is divided across several galleries, which are spread across two main floors. These galleries either focus on particular themes, or on chronology and geography, with rooms devoted to Islamic calligraphy, science, and Iran and Central Asia in the 12th-14th Century, for example. This is the best place in the Middle East where you can enjoy Islamic Art not just in the displayed works but also in the buildings architecture itself.

Islamic Art is a very important feature of Qatari culture and they as a people are extremely proud of their heritage. It is also a great way to understand their way of life.

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